Lifestyle

In profile:4-H'er of the year

The stacks of awards and certificates are thick. The rows of trophies and plaques shine.

But their existence means little to 4-H’er Suzie Cruchon.

“They’re not what I’m about,” she said.

The 17-year-old Langley girl shies away from her accolades, even as they keep coming. In December, Cruchon was selected as Island County’s 4-H’er of the Year, and will spend the coming year traveling to teach children and adults on South Whidbey and beyond that there’s more to 4-H than animals.

For Cruchon, 4-H began as a family tie when she followed her older sister, Anna, to meetings of the Knight Riders horse club. Only 4-years-old at the time, Cruchon was only able to be an “honorary member.”

She’s come a long way following her sister. Three years after Anna Cruchon, now 22, made 4-H’er of the Year in 2000, the younger sister has made the same benchmark. Since joining 4-H as third grader, Suzie Cruchon has become a leader in her organization, along the way participating in the Fair with the Knight Riders as a horseless horseman and competing in Western games barrel racing.

Her family calls her “The Energizer Bunny” because of her enthusiasm and positive attitude.

“She meets her challenges head on, ready to succeed, yet always with compassion and respect for others,” said her mother, Pauline.

Cruchon’s spirit of adventure and inner strength was apparent to her mother when her daughter traveled to Japan at the age of 14.

“I learned a lot about myself and my relation to others,” Cruchon said.

While a middle schooler she both traveled to Japan and hosted a Japanese exchange student. As a sophomore she hosted a Norwegian exchange student. She now works closely with the state 4-H office to help orientate arriving Japanese exchange students.

Cruchon lives with her parents, Pauline and Dana, in a house relatively close to the fairgrounds that have consumed so much of the Cruchon family’s time over the years. To better know the serious competitor and determined leader, all it takes is a visit Cruchon’s room and the vivid life that breathes within its girlish-pink walls.

An inflatable monkey hangs above her bed that’s filled with Sponge Bob Square Pants pillows, and a giant stuffed bull guards the foot of her bed. On her walls is art created by Cruchon, family and friends. Soccer star posters bicycle kick near her door. Her computer desk and nearby shelf is crammed with books, trophies, Trivial Pursuit cards, and more Sponge Bob anything. Any possible open space is plastered with candid photos of family and friends.

A gained maturity and responsibility from 4-H, Cruchon said, has allowed her to also excel at South Whidbey High School where she may be the busiest student in the building.

She is a member of the Falcon soccer team, this year floating between junior varsity and varsity as a defender. Last year she earned a varsity letter in track and is currently preparing for a spring season during which she plans to compete in the pole vault and hurdles. This year, she’s even the school mascot, dressing as Freddy the Falcon to dance around and entertain the crowd at South Whidbey High School sporting events.

Cruchon is busy helping to plan prom as her Associated Student Body’s junior class president. As co-Key Club president she is active in local civic activity, and her duties as Potluck Club president keep her cooking. She’s also an Honor Society member, Debate Club member and Relay for Life participant.

She dabbles in the performing arts as a member of the Fine Film Society and played Professor Willard in last year’s “Our Town.”

She also has a not-so-secret obsession with chickens, and is a known trivia junky who’s read and memorized all 2,400 questions in the Trivial Pursuit game owned by her family.

“We had to go out and get the newest edition so everyone else had a chance against me,” she said.

Though considering becoming a baker someday, she won’t confirm plans yet, and even looks to study civil aerospace engineering while at college — possibly the University of Washington or Colorado School of Mines.

“I never really set goals, I just know what direction I’m going and race towards it,” she said. “I’ve found that things done with passion often times get done more than without.”

And then, there’s 4-H. Cruchon is still a horseless horseman with the Knight Riders and continues with her 4-H duties and projects in leadership roles as the vice president of the club and as treasurer for Island County 4-H Teen Ambassadors.

“It allows me to do what I want and focus on the leadership aspect which I like,” she said.

Her winning essay to become 4-H’er of the year talks of the cycle of joining as a young 4-H’er, emerging as an older leader, and the responsibilities of every role between.

She remains modest and thankful to 4-H’ers who came before her — despite the fact she herself is a success story and poster child for the future of 4-H.

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