AMES, Iowa -- Devin De Weerd may be only 19 years old, but he already has spent most of a lifetime promoting fitness. His work as a wellness champion garnered the Iowa State University student and Sioux County 4-H’er the Healthy Iowa Emerging Leader Award.
De Weerd is the son of Don and Deb De Weerd of Hull. He received the award Oct. 1 during the Healthy Iowa Awards presentation in West Des Moines. The awards were presented by the Wellness Council of Iowa in partnership with the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Nutrition, and the Academy for a Healthy Iowa. The first-time awards celebrate Iowa’s healthiest schools, organizations and individuals.
Sioux County 4-H Youth Coordinator Cindy Cleveringa has worked with De Weerd during his nine years in 4-H and originally nominated him for the Healthy Iowa Individual Visionary Leadership Award.
A Young ‘Visionary’
“Most people would describe a ‘visionary’ as a leader who has spent years contributing to a cause and picture a middle-aged or mature adult,” Cleveringa said. However, she knew De Weerd already had spent years improving wellness through 4-H and in his school and community, despite his young age.
“Devin made teaching nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to children his priority. If a visionary is described as someone who is an innovator, motivator and a change agent, then age should not be a factor,” Cleveringa said, so she submitted the nomination.
The Academy for a Healthy Iowa, which selected all the award winners, agreed and created the Emerging Leader Award to honor De Weerd, said Jenny Weber, executive director of the Wellness Council of Iowa.
De Weerd has had a significant impact on wellness of Iowa youth, and the Academy for a Healthy Iowa hopes other young Iowans will be inspired to take action, Weber said. “The academy saw something in Devin that we want to be contagious.”
De Weerd has a long list of achievements promoting healthy living, from 4-H projects focusing on the food pyramid and healthy choices to teaching second graders about healthy eating and exercise. He’s won grants, assembled a local nutrition team and partnered with other students, school administrators, business leaders and Iowa State University Extension in Sioux County. He also participated in the Iowa Citizens’ Summit on Childhood Obesity and was a member of the Boyden-Hull Student Wellness Committee.
“My goal was to teach young children that good nutrition and exercise are very important to a healthy and productive life. What they learn now will be the foundation for the quality of life they will have as adults,” De Weerd said. “Teaching and encouraging young people about the importance of healthy eating combined with physical activity will make a difference in our schools, community and the health of our nation in the future.”
4-H Builds Tomorrow’s Leaders
“One of the greatest joys of working with youth in the 4-H program is to see them grow from today’s youth into tomorrow’s leaders,” Cleveringa said.
4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. In Iowa the 4-H program is headquartered on the Iowa State University campus in Ames and offered in every county through the local ISU Extension office.
For more information about 4-H, contact any county office of ISU Extension or the state 4-H office at (515) 294-1017.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, firstname.lastname@example.org