FARMINGTON — When Hillary Chase of Kingfield takes part in a 4-H Franklin County Working Steers Club event, tutors at school, or helps younger club members learn to show their animals, she doesn’t think about community service.
“It’s about helping,” the Mt. Abram High School senior said.
Chase, 17, was recently honored for her “exemplary volunteer service” ranking in the top 10 percent of Maine applicants for a Certificate of Excellence from the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, Judy Smith, 4-H aide with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Franklin County, said.
Presented annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the award program honors young people for their volunteer community service. Top applicants are eligible for a scholarship and a trip to Washington to meet the president, Chase said.
Chase won’t be meeting President Obama but did receive a letter from him along with her certificate.
When another Mt. Abram student applied last fall through the school, Chase turned to the county 4-H organization for her application. The process was lengthy and required her to consider not only what she did but what it meant and how it made her a better person.
An 11-year member of the county 4-H club, Chase started early, tagging along to meetings with two older brothers and then competing with them in steer showing.
Since then “it’s consumed my life . . . in a good way,” she said of the educational aspect and her various roles within the club, now president and a junior leader who helps younger members learn more about their animals.
The club’s purpose extends beyond raising and showing animals. They’ve made holiday cards for nursing home residents, stacked wood for the elderly, held bake sales and raffles to raise funds for projects, created a cookbook and volunteered at Clearwater Veterinary Clinic, to name a few.
Now she’s collecting bottles to raise funds for Project Heat, a program giving local oil companies money to help pay a portion of bills for those in need, and selling raffle tickets for the Special Olympics.
Chase has participated while maintaining honor roll status at school and being named one of Mt. Abram’s top 10 graduating seniors.
She’s also done it “while milking cows and doing chores,” her mother said of her work on the family farm, Chase Farm, owned by her parents, Andrew and Tammi Chase.
There’s also a competitive streak that pushes her to excel, according to her mother and her longtime best friend, Amanda Welch of Lebanon, who Chase met showing cattle. Both joined her Tuesday at the extension office where she was acknowledged by Smith for her achievement.
“She’s a good role model,” Smith said of her involvement with 4-H and the benefits of the program. Several members who don’t own animals, have become involved, liked it and stayed, she said.
Chase has earned top honors in the state for showing cattle and won top honors at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Mass, the highest level of competition, first in 2007 as a junior and again in 2011 in the senior division.
Although Chase participated in a summer work session at Tufts University for students interested in becoming veterinarians, her plans changed when work with animals challenged her allergies.
People have said they are glad she’s not wasting her talents on animals but will help people, her mother said.
This fall she will begin college in the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s nursing program with plans to become a nurse practitioner and diabetes educator.
Family members dealing with diabetes, including a brother diagnosed when he was a child, have prompted Chase to “want to help other kids,” she said.