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Girl working with student on STEM project.
Pittsburg County 4-H’er Emilee Coxsey works with Crowder Public Schools seventh graders to create an art-bot. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

Pittsburg County 4-H’er named finalist for National 4-H Council’s STEM Pillar Award

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 |

When Emilee Coxsey was a young girl, she was often bullied due to a facial scar left from a tumor-removal surgery over her right eye that saved her sight.

“Kids would point out my scar and pick on me,” said Coxsey, now 17. “It just kept getting worse, and they started bullying me for everything. I liked art and reading, and kids would bully me for that, too.”

But she also remembers what saved her in elementary school: joining the Frink-Chambers 4-H Club in Pittsburg County, which became her second family and a place where she fit in — and she has flourished.

Through 4-H, she developed a love for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities. Coupling that with her love of art, she since has developed a series of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) workshops she teaches to students in kindergarten through high school, as well as scouting groups, church groups and other 4-H clubs. She was recently recognized as one of two National 4-H Council finalists for the 2022 Youth in Action Pillar Award for STEM.

“I was petrified to walk into my first meeting years ago, but they were so nice and welcoming. Getting involved in 4-H really turned my life around,” Coxsey said. “I was so excited to find kids who had the same interests as me and I just felt at home.”

She found her passion in sixth grade when she started participating in STEM activities, and about a year later she began teaching her STEAM workshops. She does research on topics such as space or force and motion and creates all of her own projects, including workshops to create propeller cars out of potato chip canisters, electric circuit boards, wind vanes, lava lamps, art-bots (robots that make art) and a model Mars Rover.

Coxsey has reached more than 238,000 youth with her workshops, and in the process has pre-packaged tens of thousands of individual pieces such as pipe cleaners, batteries, tongue depressors and googly eyes. Each student participating gets a bag with everything needed to complete a project.

“My workshops also help introduce kids to 4-H. Each of the projects I’ve designed can be entered into the Pittsburg County fair,” Coxsey said.

Crowder Public Schools seventh-grader Shelbie Frank became a member of 4-H mainly to show her animals. Participating in Coxsey’s STEAM workshops exposes her to other aspects of the organization.

“It’s fun learning about how batteries have power. It makes me interested in learning more about STEM activities,” Frank said. “A lot of kids my age stay cooped up inside playing video games, but these kinds of activities are a lot of fun.”

Greg Owen, Oklahoma State University Extension 4-H Youth Development educator in Pittsburg County, has seen his club members succeed beyond the boundaries of the county. Three former club members have been named Youth in Action Pillar Award winners, and Coxsey is his second finalist.

“For my kids to get to this level, they have to have great family and volunteer support. They must have a strong work ethic, and Emilee accentuates this,” Owen said. “As with all of my county 4-H Ambassadors, I encouraged her to create her own community service project — something she loves and has a passion for. My ambassadors do the work, but I’m like their talent agent — I help them find ways to showcase what they can do.”

With encouragement from Owen to go “even bigger” with her project, Coxsey will soon release an activity guide of all her projects with directions for youth to complete them on their own. This will make the information she presents in her in-person workshops available to those who may not be able to attend in person.

Coxsey’s STEAM workshops have been a regular feature in Tammie Hackler’s junior high English class for five years.

“Emilee does an excellent job teaching my students, and the kids really relate to her,” said Hackler, who teaches at Crowder Public Schools. “Students need variety — not just the same person teaching them all the time — and what Emilee does is educational. Because our school doesn’t offer art, the activities she does with my classes are really good for them and engaging.”

Coxsey said presenting her workshops not only shares her knowledge and love of STEAM, but also provides her an opportunity to work on her public speaking and leadership skills.

“Teaching these workshops helps me become a better person each time I walk into the classroom. I feel like I belong there and it’s something I love. I have a passion for teaching. It’s like a firecracker going off,” she said.

Being a member of the Frink-Chambers 4-H Club isn’t Coxsey’s only extracurricular activity. She also serves as Miss McAlester; is on the school pom team; takes dance classes as well as teaches dance; and participates in the mock trial program at her school.

In addition, she is the Pittsburg County 4-H vice president. Coxsey plans to attend college next year and major in aerospace engineering.

“I’m so thankful for 4-H and I consider them my second family. If we need something, we’re always there for each other,” Coxsey said. “4-H has helped me become the best version of myself.”

More information about the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program is available online.

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