Tammy Vass remembered as 4-H leader

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By Staff Reports

HILLSVILLE — Tammy Vass, who died on Feb. 16, received a nomination to become a 4-H All-Star for her efforts in building the Carroll County 4-H Livestock Club into a national competitor.
Inclusion as an honorary member in the Virginia Chapter of 4-H All-Stars is the greatest honor that an adult leader can receive in the state, according to Sarah Jo Jones, the Carroll County 4-H agent.
Vass served as mentor to a group of local youths that found success and recognition as competitors in 4-H’s National Quiz Bowl in Omaha, Neb., last fall.

Beginning with four home-schooled children, $39 in a checking account and a math teaching degree, Vass dedicated her time and energy to creating and coaching the club.
Vass “worked hard to make sure her members always had study materials, guest speakers and access to any material they needed to succeed,” according to the nomination. “Not only did the students learn, but she had to learn with them, making the club more like a family.
“Now, just a few short years later and hundreds of hours later, the Carroll County 4-H Livestock Club is known around the state as a 4-H Club that’s on fire!”
Vass had an unstated motto of, “Changing the future, one child at a time.”
One member started in the club being afraid of insects, but later decided that farming was the profession for him, thanks to Vass’s mentoring, according to the nomination.
The team logged a successful 2013, finishing up the year as first in Virginia Quiz Bowl and second in the state in the stockmen’s contest.
Vass encouraged club members to become Virginia 4-H All-Stars and agricultural leaders.
A participant in Carroll County Ag Day, Vass taught second, third and fifth graders about honeybees and livestock.
While participating in district competitions, Vass would make herself available to lead contestant groups and to take the participants around.
“She is never too busy to read the quiz to the young or handicap contestants and encourages them to pursue their dreams in agriculture along the way,” the nomination said.
Vass helped the Carroll County 4-H Livestock Club place first at the Virginia 4-H Quiz Bowl Contest and worked tirelessly for the team to become the first to represent the state at the National Quiz Bowl. This included fundraising and promoting the team across Virginia.
“The club spent the few months of summer fundraising, studying and reading hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of material,” the nomination said. “With only four hours of meeting time a month, much of the learning was left up to the four individuals and two alternates who made up the team.”
Team members raised money to help with the trip by selling strawberries outside local stores, getting donations from family members and selling hot dogs at the county fair.
Vass facilitated the state quiz bowl team flying to nationals in Omaha, despite the fact that many were uninitiated long-distance travelers and no other group from Carroll County had ever made it that far. The money raised paid for eight plane tickets, three hotel rooms, rental cars and meals.
“The best thing that Tammy did for the club was to encourage and believe in us,” the nomination said. “She said it did not matter if we came in as champions or as last place, but that we just had to give it our best shot, and be happy with our effort.”
The Carroll County team placed fifth in the nation during the double elimination tournament.
Team members will know about agriculture and math from lessons they got from Vass, but they will also carry with them the morals, ethics and common sense that she displayed, too, the nomination said.
“Over the last five years Tammy Vass has taken a group of inexperienced 4-Hers and taught them all the skills needed to become champions and a competitive force to be reckoned with,” Jones wrote in the nomination. “This club has always had high goals in mind, but competing at the national level was icing on the cake.”
Vass’ work, along with that of other parent leaders, had already paid off in making the club members into community leaders and 4-H All-Stars.
“Tammy pushes her 4-Hers to personify the 4-H Motto — to Make the Best Better,” Jones wrote. “Tammy has been an excellent club leader and contributed to the success of the Carroll County 4-H program by putting Carroll County on the map at all levels — unit, area, district, state and national!”