Newly-crowned Fair Queens bring unique spin to Elkhart County 4-H life

Much like her crowning moment in becoming the 2017 Elkhart County 4-H Fair queen, Samantha Shank’s life has been a blur. A winding, active, and arguably unique, blur.

But Samantha’s goals remain in complete focus.

Home-schooled throughout her high school years, Samantha, now a sophomore at Bethel College in Mishawaka, learned how to “walk the walk” of a 4-H’er. She’s an author, graphic designer, and self-made entrepreneur.

“I’m a 10-year member this year, I love 4-H, I love what it stands for,” Samantha said. “And I love the motto, ‘Learn by Doing.'”

Adopted in China when she was six-months-old by Phillip and Dara Shank of Elkhart, Samantha has been a 4-H Media Club member for six years and a 4-H Rabbit Club member for five years and she’s served as a volunteer for Junior Achievement and the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Samantha turned her savvy and love of writing into a popular blog — — a site which has notched more than 1.5 million page views in three years.

“I originally started in Rabbit Club and then as I started to get more involved in 4-H, I learned about a club called Media Club where we write the Fair newsletter,” Samanatha said of “The Clover Chronicles.”

Dedication and drive forged her path. The ultimate self-starter, Samantha taught herself and later became proficient in Blogger and WordPress coding as well as Adobe Photoshop.

“I love writing, I love journalism. I thought, ‘This is my club,'” Samantha said. “I’ve just had so many opportunities at the fair. I’ve been able to see the fair from different perspectives … from a 4-H’er, a vendor and just a regular fair-goer. I have a lot of great memories and great experiences. There’s a different club for everybody.

“I’m so excited. I’m all about embracing new life opportunities. Three years ago, I would have never imagined myself here in the pageant or anything like that. So I’m just excited to try something new and have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

For Tena Jakubowicz, 4-H truly has been a lifetime experience.

Jakubowicz, the newly-crowned Senior 4-H Queen, had a front row seat to four children who all became 10-year 4-H members over a 23-year period. As a 35-year member of the Elkhart County Extension Homemaker Club, Tena has enjoyed a full life of card making, knitting, food preserving all while raising poultry.

“For future generations, the life skills they learn through 4-H is just amazing,” said Tena, who lives in Middlebury with her husband, Fred. Her four children are Julie, Phillip, Rita and Doug. “The perseverance, the going out in the cold in the morning, then milking goats … it’s hard work. Life isn’t fair, but it builds character.”

Tena’s family is living proof of the commitment to a 4-H lifestyle and she’s watched her children blossom as adults.

“Two of our kids were learning disabled, but to see them all persevere … they’re all accomplished ,” said Tena. “I have a dentist, I have a hygienist, I have a speech therapist and I have a chemical engineer. To me, it was the hard work. We set the bar high and they rose to it. They lived up to their potential.”

Tena also volunteers her time at the Faith Mission and at the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and is a district rep for the Indiana Extension Homemakers Association state board.

“And that’s what we strive in homemakers, too,” Tena said. “We’re trying to educate ourselves so we can pass that on to others. That’s what we do in the community.”

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