|Topeka West sophomore Claire Coultis at the State 4-H Convention|
Livestock and crafts are the first things that come to mind for many when discussing 4-H. However, Topeka West sophomore Claire Coultis invested her time in a less typical facet of the positive youth development and mentoring organization. Coultis chose reading as a focus for her two-year, award winning project.
As an eighth grader at Jardine Middle School, Coultis had no idea that her project would become nationally recognized. Coultis’ journey to Kansas 4-H state champion began with a brainstorming session with her mother, Barbara Coultis. They discussed how to conduct a reading project in a unique way that had not yet been attempted.
“There is a negative stigma with the reading project that it’s all book reports,” Coultis said. “I thought we could do a lot with it that other people didn’t think of.”
She planned and led various programs within Topeka, expanding reading programs for her peers, read children’s books to preschoolers, wrote book reviews for the Shawnee County Public Library website, collected books as donations to various Topeka libraries and even volunteered at Jardine Middle School’s book fair.
Coultis also took this opportunity to expand her own reading skills and knowledge. In the past two years, she has learned to read in French, became well versed in international affairs and connected to her family heritage by reading passages from her grandmother’s journal from the Great Depression. Through this process Coultis realized that reading is key to both gaining and sharing knowledge and that reading can, “help keep a community together.”
Coultis will be traveling to Georgia over Thanksgiving break for the National 4-H Congress where she will be celebrated as the Kansas 4-H Champion for Reading. When she returns, she plans to continue focusing on her academics, Model UN, Scholar’s Bowl and orchestra at Topeka West. After graduating from Topeka West in 2020 she hopes to attend a Kansas based college and pursue a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Music) field.