Former Wisconsin 4-H specialist inducted into National 4-H Hall of Fame

Linda Kustka WI 4H Hall of Fame

Linda Kustka WI 4H Hall of FameLinda Kustka of Madison, Wisconsin was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on October 9 for her lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H.

Honored by the Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development Program, Kustka is one of 16 people inducted during the ceremony at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees are nominated by their home states, National 4-H Council, the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents or 4-H National Headquarters based upon their exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.

Honorees were presented with a National 4-H Hall of Fame medallion, plaque and memory book during the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the Centennial Project of the NAE4-HA in partnership with National 4-H Council and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA. For more information about the National 4-H Hall of Fame event and past recipients, visit

“We are proud to acknowledge the outstanding 2015 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision and leadership they’ve shown toward our young people during their many years of service to 4-H,” says Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Committee Chair.

Linda Kustka retired from the University of Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development Program after 30 years of service. As a county 4-H educator, Linda planned and implemented diverse programs for low income youth and as the State 4-H Volunteer/Leadership Specialist she designed statewide diversity/inclusion training of CES staff. Linda provided mentoring supervision to Points of Light Foundation interns engaged youth in decision making roles on state councils and the state foster care system. She influenced development of, and implemented, Public Adventures, a national 4-H citizenship curriculum that involved youth in identifying and addressing community needs. As a 4-H club volunteer, she coached 15 youth for five years to create programs on pet adoption education, child literacy, and adapted the Amazing Race TV show format into a government education program. Currently, as NAMI (Family Alliance on Mental Illness) Family Program Director, Linda improves lives affected by mental illness through planning/conducting statewide training and sharing her mental health collaboration experiences with state Extension Professionals and others.

Linda’s involvement in leadership and service are impressive. Linda has held numerous elected and leadership positions in organizations including the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents, Wisconsin Epsilon Sigma Phi and Wisconsin Association of Extension 4-H Professional. Linda served as a key advisor to State 4-H Youth and Adult Leader Councils for 20 years chairing committees to implement statewide programs related to leadership, volunteerism, youth empowerment and program marketing. Linda has chaired the Research & Publications Committees at University of Wisconsin and she authored the “Youth Protection” training materials and “Youth Volunteers in Motion” publication and provided training on these materials throughout Wisconsin and in other states.

During her tenure as a 4-H educator, Linda accomplishments were notable. She expanded the county 4-H adult and youth volunteers serving on management committees from 33 to 144; supported 500 volunteers working with 1,500 youth in 50+ 4-H clubs and special interest groups. Linda took the primary leadership for 4-H staff and volunteer teams that created and implemented a statewide youth protection system in 1994, including mandatory volunteer training, criminal background checks, and signed conduct agreements. Over 18,000 volunteers completed this system the first year and about 27,000 thereafter. Under Linda’s leadership, she strengthened statewide community 4-H clubs via development of teaching materials, staff and volunteer training on improving meetings, shared leadership, youth as leaders, and supportive environments. Linda was instrumental in organizing numerous Cooperative Extension history celebrations (1976 U. S. Bicentennial; 1980 WI 4-H 75th Anniversary; 2005 WI Epsilon Sigma Phi 75th Anniversary; 2012 WI CES Centennial; 2014 WI 4-H Centennial) that honored the past, highlighted the present and projected the future.

Linda is humble about her Extension work. She often pulls a team together to make things happen, letting others take credit. Her quiet, yet essential behind the scenes efforts model how to truly design programs WITH people, not for them. Her rock steady character is often sought to calm stormy situations and help others creatively problem solve.

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