Nevada’s Linda Zimmerman, 4-H volunteer for University of Nevada, Reno Extension for over 34 years and a University alumna, is one of only four 4-H volunteers nationally to have recently been named a 4-H Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer. Zimmerman was named the 4-H Western Region Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer as part of the 4‑H Salute to Excellence Awards for her dedication and service to Extension’s Washoe County 4-H Horse Program and support of youth statewide.
Participating in the 4-H Youth Development Program as a youth herself, Zimmerman went from being a club member to being the parent of 4-H youth, and then a 4-H club leader and a 4-H Leaders’ Council member. Her positive impact on youth in her club has inspired many past participants to enroll their own children in the program, and to become 4-H leaders themselves.
Having earned her doctoral degree in social psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno, she is interested in trying new strategies for engagement and retention, while supporting youth and their families in figuring out how best to participate in clubs and activities.
“Linda understands some youth may struggle in different areas as they join 4-H or try to engage in activities or projects,” said Carrie Stark, Nevada’s 4-H state director. “She goes above and beyond to assist them, finding a way to help them with extra time, resources and meetings to overcome their struggles. She exemplifies positive youth-adult partnerships.”
For three decades, Zimmerman has served as the 4-H Horse Leader for the Silver Knolls Spurs in Washoe County, managing horse shows and serving as the secretary for others. She has served both on the Washoe County 4-H Horse Leaders’ Council and the General Washoe County Leaders’ Council for over 15 years.
“Linda is incredibly grounded, is very reliable, has a high moral character and is someone that everyone enjoys working with,” said Kelsey Conklin, 4-H Youth Development community based instructor in Washoe County who nominated Zimmerman for the award. “She excels at helping others grow into leadership positions and helps to support them. She embodies respect for all those around her, setting the standard and example.”
Conklin says in her time with the horse program, Zimmerman has worked to ensure youth reach their full potential. Her innovative solutions to achieve this goal include electing officers twice a year, instead of the traditional once a year, so that more youth have the opportunity to be leaders. Zimmerman’s club has also planned and hosted consignment tack sales for the past 30 years, with the money going toward helping youth gain opportunities that they may not otherwise be able to access. This includes financial support for youth to attend the 4-H Western National Roundup and 4-H summer camps.
“Linda shaped my love for the equine industry by providing countless members the opportunity to expand their knowledge with numerous clinics and 4-H horse shows she put on,” Rebecca Glocknitzer, a past member of Zimmerman’s horse club, said. “My most cherished memories were showing at the Nevada State Fair horse show in every class possible with my horse Louie. I am very thankful for the opportunities Linda provided me for many years!”
At the state level, Zimmerman has helped to plan the Nevada State Leaders’ Forum, and has served as the chairperson for the Nevada State Expo Horse Show. For her work and service, she has been awarded the Nevada 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award, Outstanding Leader of the Year Award and Project Leader of the Year Award.
Zimmerman also aids with raising scholarship funds for youth to attend national events, including Citizenship Washington Focus, National 4-H Conference and National 4-H Congress.
In addition to her usual duties, Zimmerman works with her club to see how they can help other youth in their communities. For example, they raise funds for childhood cancer research and give assistance to families experiencing childhood cancer. In other service experiences, she encourages 4-H youth to help educate or engage other youth in their communities.
“Linda is completely dedicated to all causes she sets her mind to helping with,” said Conklin. “We are just extremely fortunate that one of those is 4-H. She and volunteers like her are what enable the 4-H program to have such incredible impact on our youth.”
Research by Tufts University shows that 4-H youth are four times more likely to contribute to their communities, and two times more likely to plan to go to college and pursue STEM opportunities outside of school. They also report better grades, higher levels of academic competence, and an elevated level of engagement at school. 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, empowering nearly 6 million young people in the U.S., as well as 1 million youth in 50 other countries.