May Youth of the Month Winner Reagan Koester Uses Virtual Tools to Spread Cheer and Educate Peers About Agriculture During COVID-19

15-year old North Posey High School sophomore Reagan Koester is no stranger to overcoming obstacles and persevering. When a basketball injury the summer before freshman year changed the trajectory of her high school sports career, she decided to focus her energy and positive attitude on ways she could make a difference where her injury did not hinder her abilities.

“Sports were a big part of my life,” Reagan said, “I have been involved in soccer training since a young child. I was transitioning to a new school for my freshman year and was dedicated to sports training. However, one simple basketball fast-break lay up in June changed everything, as I tore my ACL and meniscus.”

Reagan’s surgeon advised against surgery until physical therapy, rest, and “staying at home” improved her knee significantly, which would provide for an improved outcome post-surgery. Later she had surgery on both knees and re-learned how to walk three days before her first day of high school.

Raegan with her torn ACL and meniscus

“I had my very own “stay-at-home” order last summer while the rest of my peers continued to live life as normal. So, the recent COVID-19 stay-at-home orders did not phase me in the same way, as I had already emotionally worked through missing important milestones in the recent past,” Reagan explained. “Since I knew in advance the mental struggle others were about to journey through, I started to brainstorm on ways that I could help or entertain others to provide them a glimpse of joy during these difficult times.”

She quickly discovered ways to utilize the internet and other resources to continue helping and educating others during this time.

“With the hoarding of milk by consumers and the interruption of the supply chain, some local dairy farmers were actually dumping milk with no place to deliver it to for processing. Being raised on a dairy farm, this was heart wrenching for Reagan,” said teacher and 4-H leader, Julie Gries, who nominated Reagan for Youth of the Month.

During this time, the local Purdue Extension office contacted Reagan to develop a video to use at the newly developed 4th Grade Virtual Ag Days. Reagan quickly jumped at the opportunity to educate others and provide a fun way for students stuck at home to learn about dairy by-products. She wrote a skit with her sister, Lindsey, that educated fourth graders about the benefits of adding dairy to their diet, and created a virtual farm tour where they could learn more about a robotic dairy farm.

But it’s not all serious work for Reagan, whose sense-of-humor and infectious laugh, have been noted by her peers as one of the many things that makes her stand out.

When the FFA (Future Farmers of America) talent show was cancelled the night before the event due to the pandemic, Reagan talked her good friend into creating a video of farm-related jokes.   

“We both came up with a list of corny farm jokes, and became slap happy while filming. It was just so fun to do something positive during an otherwise challenging time,” said Reagan.

Reagan’s positive attitude is undeniable, and it’s easy to see why she was once voted “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day” by her classmates.

Raegan showing a cow for 4-H

“Reagan just has this robust energy and positive outlook that often sparks joy in other classmates. She is inclusive and accepting of others regardless of differences. She has an inborn quality to quickly identify the good in others, and really desires that others feel special and important,” said Julie.

“My family has taught me that having unexpected setbacks are just a part of life. However, it is how you react to these challenges that will make a difference,” Reagan said. “I spent a lot of hours as a child working on my soccer skills and running, and dreamed of playing varsity sports my freshman year. With sports taken away from me due to an injury, and later the pandemic, I have learned that an activity or hobby is not my identity. Without a doubt, I am a better person from these setbacks, as it allows me to focus on being grateful for what I do have and strive to bring joy to others.”

When asked what she would tell others who are feeling the weight of the pandemic or facing setbacks of their own, Reagan said, “You may feel shocked, sad, or angry initially that something unexpected happened to you that turned your world upside down. But I truly believe you can change your life by changing your attitude. Each day I focus on what I am grateful for in my life. I also try to make it a habit to be happy regardless of my day’s events. Also, if you can find ways to help others, you actually end up helping yourself get through difficult times.”

Reagan is a member of Saint Wendel All Star Clovers, where she has served as Treasurer, Reporter and Health & Safety Coordinator. She is a student representative for Purdue Extension Advisory Committee, a member of Junior Leaders and is active in the youth group at Saint Wendel Catholic Church. Through a collaboration with the Purdue University College of Agriculture, she created a science fair project that helped middle school aged students realize their natural aptitude for a career in agriculture, which placed first in the nation in National FFA Agricscience. After graduation, Reagan hopes to attend Purdue University to study Agriculture Business and continue on to law school.

To read a blog post Reagan wrote for us during our virtual TAC Day of Service, click here.

To nominate a student ages 5-18 for Youth of the Month, click here.