Two Berrien County children were among this year’s 4-H Mark of Excellence essay contest winners.

Every year, counties statewide offer 4-H youth, ages 11-12, the chance to participate in the contest. As part of the contest, up to two 4-H youth essays from each county are selected to be recognized as award winners.

Berrien County’s 2019 winners were Derrick J. Freehling of Three Oaks and Isabelle Hunn of Benton Harbor.

Overall, 37 4-H members from 26 counties were honored as 2019 Mark of Excellence county winners.

The essay theme was “Because of 4-H, I can ...” In their essays, the winners explained how 4-H has allowed them to grow and develop life skills.

Hunn has been a member of the Backyard Renegades 4-H Club for the past five years. She participates in rabbits and expressive arts projects.

Through her experience, she has “gained courage, self-confidence and so many friends.”

She partakes in various 4-H community service projects, where she “inspires others to give back to their communities through volunteering,” while developing “the confidence to lead a group of” her peers.

Freehling has been a member of the River Valley Wranglers 4-H Club for seven years.

He takes part in the horse and pony project through his club, and has been participating as a team member of the Berrien County 4-H Horse Judging – Junior Team.

Recently, he took part in the 4-H Exploration Days pre-college program, where he learned about responsibility.

Throughout his 4-H career, he has “gained skills in planning, caring for animals, overcame fears and horse judging, which helps with his public speaking.”

Each winner received a medal, and their essays will be added to the Mark of Excellence history book at the Michigan 4-H Foundation and State 4-H Office at MSU Extension. The essays are also on display at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich.

In addition, Freehling and Hunn will be honored at the 2019 Berrien County 4-H Member and Leader Recognition Banquet this fall.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H youth development, visit

For more information about Berrien County 4-H, contact Kelly Stelter, 4-H program coordinator, at 927-5674, ext. 4015 or