The national award, which covers a full year’s tuition, is worth just over $10,000 this year. Altogether, Elliott’s three 4-H scholarships have contributed nearly $30,000 to her education at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) where she’s completing the fourth and final year of the regional college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.
“I was, and still am, just so honoured to have won,” says Elliott. “I don't do 4-H because I want the recognition, but to be recognized for what you do — it feels pretty good.”
After 20 years of involvement, Elliott describes 4-H as part of her identity. She began her membership with 4-H Manitoba by joining the Pipestone 4-H Beef & Heifer Club at the age of five. When she left her home province in 2015 to attend school at the WCVM, she continued participating in the positive youth development organization through 4-H Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon 4-H Beef Club. This year, Elliott has begun a new adventure as a volunteer leader.
Honouring 4-H’s agricultural roots, the Weston Family 4-H Agricultural Scholarship is annually given to undergraduate or postgraduate students who are taking an agricultural-based certificate, degree or diploma program at a recognized Canadian postsecondary institution.
Academic performance is considered, plus applicants must write an essay focusing on an issue in the agriculture industry and how their education and future career will help to make a difference. Elliott says the scholarship committee also reviews students’ 4-H participation as well as their community involvement outside of 4-H.
Elliott’s résumé includes many examples in both areas. As 4-H Manitoba’s representative on the national Youth Advisory Committee, Elliott sat on 4-H Canada’s Board of Directors and attended the national 4-H Leadership Summits where she had the opportunity to meet 4-H leaders from across Canada. During her pre-veterinary degree, Elliott participated in the St. John Ambulance first aid program in Brandon, Man. She has also volunteered with student councils and student associations at both Brandon University and the U of S.
Elliott says the 4-H scholarship has not only helped her financially during veterinary school, but it will also be a tremendous help once she completes the veterinary program in April 2019.
“I am in the rare, rare position in that I will be debt free, so I'll be able to start saving and hopefully become a practice owner sooner,” says Elliott. “The fact that I'll be able to get a jump start on that means I'll be able to continue being a 4-H leader and giving back to the community, instead of worrying about working 80 hours a week to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. That’s pretty exciting.”
Elliott appreciates that the 4-H organization is there for students throughout their education.
“It was easy enough to pay for my first year of undergrad with entrance scholarships. Then after that, unless you were top of your class, there was really nothing other than 4-H scholarships,” says Elliott. “The fact that 4-H supports post-secondary students beyond that first year — and that organizations support 4-H in doing so — is wonderful. They’re saying that we're still valuable and that we’re still doing things for the [4-H] program, so they want to say thank you for that by continuing to help us develop.”
Beyond the financial assistance, Elliott says the 4-H motto of “learn to do by doing” has been a staple in her learning.
“There are times where I have thought, ‘I don't think we've been taught this, I don't remember learning this, how am I supposed to do this?’ But you just do it and learn from the experience. I think that's a big part of the mindset for our careers, too — we're going to make mistakes as vets, but we should always learn from them,” says Elliott.
After graduation, Elliott hopes to work in a rural mixed animal practice somewhere in Western Canada. She’s also interested in travelling for work, but eventually, she may end up practising near her family’s farm in western Manitoba.
Wherever her veterinary career takes her, Elliott plans to continue being involved in 4-H and helping the next generation of 4-H members develop their skills and community spirit.
“The reason that I am who I am has a lot to do with the people who were willing to volunteer their time. The people who got involved — my 4-H leaders, the people who put that extra time in and that extra effort to helping people develop — it's what makes our society better,” says Elliott.