K-State Research and Extension News
August 23, 2012
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Teen Promotes Healthy Choices to Boost Community

EFFINGHAM, Kan. – Tara Ellerman can tell you how to raise a calf, lead a horse, make a cake, shop for new clothes – or make her own.

In this, her 12th and last year of 4-H membership, Ellerman, from Effingham, Kan., has chosen to create a 4-H

Lifetime Fitness Project to inspire youth and adults in the community to choose a healthy lifestyle.

She credits Diane Nielson, Atchison County K-State Research and Extension agent, for inspiring the fitness effort.

“Diane shared results from the 2009 Kansas County Health Rankings, and Atchison County ranked near the bottom in almost every category, and last in Health Behaviors specifically,” Ellerman said.

“I don’t like to be last,” said Ellerman, who has thrived on the lessons learned in 4-H food, nutrition and health projects, and excelled in health-promoting physical activity. She earned recognition as a standout basketball player in northeast Kansas and a basketball scholarship to Northwest Missouri State University.

With raising awareness about choosing a healthy lifestyle as her goal, Ellerman combined food, nutrition and health messages from her 4-H projects and dietary recommendations from the USDA’s “My Plate” to illustrate three key messages:

1) Eat healthy,

2) Exercise more, and

3) Make healthy choices, easy choices.

As a local spokesperson for health, she targeted teen and adult groups, and believes “we need to model healthy behaviors for youth.”

With Ellerman concluding her 4-H project work in Atchison County as she begins her college career, Nielson and Ellerman’s mother, Margo, a family and consumer sciences teacher in Valley Falls, Kan., will continue to draw from her presentation.

Ellerman is planning to study Ag Business and considering minors in Animal Science and Ag Economics, but doesn’t intend to stop reaching out to others, including youth.

“My goal,” she said, “is to be a good role model while working as a feed sales rep and teaching future 4-H members about animal health.”


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Nancy Peterson
K-State Research & Extension News

Diane Nielson is at 913-833-5450