DENISON – The younger elementary school-aged children who are participating in Clover Kids and the upper elementary-age children through high school active in 4-H could be preparing themselves for their future more than they realize.
That was the case for one past Webster County 4-H’er, turned photographer, lawyer and politician.
“It is amazing how many doors opened for me through 4-H,” said Brad Bonner.
Bonner and his family moved to the Vincent area when he was in sixth-grade. He graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High in 1998, graduated from Iowa State University in 2003 and earned his law degree from the University of South Dakota in 2006.
He then made the move to Denison where he eventually opened his own law practice and continued with a career in photography – Bonner Photographic – that he had started while at ISU. He has since been elected mayor of Denison.
In his formative years, Bonner was a 4-H’er and credits those experiences for becoming a successful adult.
A past Washington Winners 4-H Club member in Webster County, Bonner was active in citizenship, leadership and communications, as well as entering photography projects.
“Photography in 4-H gave me an outlet to learn photography and turn it into a career,” said Bonner.
The citizenship, leadership and communications was an area of 4-H that Bonner admits he wasn’t a fan of at the time, but is grateful his parents encouraged him to participate in them.
The skills gained through those topics, Bonner said, included public speaking, a skill that he has built upon.
He also had a fund-raising project as a teenager that provided experience he uses today. His project was raising $10,000 for uniforms for the Ghost Garrison, a group of military re-enactors, associated with the Fort Museum in Fort Dodge.
Among the other skills Bonner said he learned in 4-H were writing grants, writing letters, asking for donations and making speeches.
It was during a trip to Washington, D.C., as a delegate for the National 4-H conference that Bonner said he was first exposed to politics.
He said that on that trip he met legislators and participated in workshops tackling national issues, leadership and team building.
“It was a fascinating trip,” he said. “It showed me there was a world out there I was interested in.”
He traveled to Washington, D.C., a second time for the Citizen Washington Focus conference and traveled to Chicago and attended camping trips through 4-H, as well.
“Those trips gave me an avenue to grow as a person and experience things I might not have otherwise.”
In addition to public speaking, leadership and citizenship skills, Bonner said goal-setting and record keeping led him to becoming a lawyer and mayor. He expressed his thankfulness that 4-H taught him these skills.
“The goal-settings and record book keeping as an adult, looking back, was a great thing to learn,” said Bonner. “You need to create a goal and work towards it.”
Bonner said he brings goal-setting to his mayoral duties, working to improve Denison.
Agriculture, Bonner said, is only a tiny part of what 4-H actually is, meaning even those youths who don’t live on a farm will benefit from joining the organization.
Bonner said there is so much that goes with each project – way beyond showing up to the fair.
“Even bringing a steer to the fair, it’s not just an animal you are showing, it’s the background of how you got the animal there,” said Bonner.
Bonner and wife Shani have three daughters: Brigid, 6; Camilla, 3; and Genevieve,18 months.
Bonner said his oldest daughter is involved in Clover Kids, which will make her the fourth generation in his family to become a part of 4-H.
His parents, John and Sandee Bonner, of Vincent, were recently inducted into the 2014 4-H Hall of Fame.
Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page