Naturally predisposed to it (his mother was a member), Hayden Tommer got his start in 4-H at a young age — joining in sixth grade. Now a senior at Newton High School, the member of the Macon Lakers 4-H Club has continued to take on more responsibility with each passing year.

Both with his own club and the 4-H Council that represents all of Harvey County, Tommer serves as treasurer — cashing checks, maintaining the budgets of both organizations, advising on their expenditures, etc. Part of that drive has come from having something to do, while Tommer said he also enjoys sharing experiences with 4-H members from all over.

"I just want to do it 'cause it gets me out of the house, (gives me) something to do in Newton," Tommer said. "It gets me out of the house and I get to meet interesting people from all over."

Specifically, Tommer said he is looking forward to a conference in the coming year in which 4-H members from across the state will come together at the Capitol.

Additionally, as a local 4-H leader, Tommer generally helps with the Harvey County Free Fair each year — assisting younger members and with the judging process in his chosen project, Geology.

"First, I tried rocketry," Tommer said, "but I determined that was too much work and I wanted a project I could spread out a little bit better, and so I picked Geology because you get to go on trips to parts of Kansas you normally don't want to go to — the chalk beds, the Flint Hills, those regions — which in some ways are unique and beautiful and in other ways it's just miserable depending on the weather."

Initially misreading the project description, Tommer soon found out the Geology project was the study of Earth — focused on collecting rocks, minerals and fossils. Through various trips around the state, Tommer's collection has grown to include 60-plus items (mostly fossils). He has gone out as far as the chalk beds in western Kansas, near the Colorado border, which are rich in fish and shark fossils.

More than his leadership roles and individual projects, 4-H also offers numerous service opportunities for Tommer to get involved with — something he has really come to enjoy.

Throughout the year, the Lakers are typically involved in a park clean-up project (at least once) and also gear up their community service around the holidays, including visiting senior centers to carol and deliver Christmas cards, one of Tommer's favorite 4-H activities.

"Just going to the old people's home and seeing their reaction; they love it," Tommer said. "They don't usually have that many people there for them all the time, so going out and giving cards to people who normally don't get cards anymore I guess is probably the best."

For the example he sets through his commitment to leadership, Tommer was recently named one of this year's Outstanding 4-Hers by the Harvey County 4-H Development Foundation. The foundation annually awards members they deem to have exhibited exceptional leadership, community service and have went above and beyond in terms of 4-H involvement.

Being one of a handful of senior 4-H members in his club and around the county, Tommer takes his leadership responsibilities seriously, hoping to set an example for the next generation of leaders.

"You need someone who's trustworthy with money, you need someone who knows what they're doing, you need someone with enough math skills to know what's going on, so you have to hope you inspire someone who's capable of filling in the role," Tommer said.

Trying 4-H is an experience Tommer recommends to anyone. While other opportunities exist to get involved in the community, he recommended 4-H based on the balance of the opportunities available.

"4-H is just more of a mesh between the boys and the girls to achieve good for the community and develop leadership skills," Tommer said.