Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson, Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
Extension Today is a monthly digital newsletter intended to highlight 1890 Cooperative Extension and provide updates across the 1890 land-grant system. The 1890 Cooperative Extension System’s work with youth has developed some of the greatest talent in academia, industry and politics, as well as cultivated productive and engaged everyday citizens.
4-H youth development programs in the 1890 Cooperative Extension System engage youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups and families in ways that are productive and constructive and promotes positive outcomes for young people. This month, we are highlighting an influential 4-H student or 4-H agent who has made a significant difference in their community. AEA supports our 4-H leaders, educators and volunteers, as well as celebrates those young people participating in our states.
We appreciate you taking the time to read about the talented expertise in 1890 Cooperative Extension. Continue to stay safe and protect each other.
The dapper 4-H’er
By Alabama 4-H & Youth Development Team
As America’s largest youth development organization, 4-H continues to shape the hearts and minds of youth across the nation and certainly in Alabama. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University formally relaunched its 4-H program in 2019. However, it has always offered youth development programs for young people to engage in 4-H activities. Among these shining stars is a dapper (neatly dressed) young man named Ashton Osborne.
Ashton, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Madison County, was first introduced to 4-H at the age of 10 when he was invited to speak to Extension youth about setting goals and entrepreneurship. In April 2017, at the remarkable age of 8, Ashton and his mom established Southern Beaus by Ashton. His company helps to increase interest in dapper attire among young men. Southern Beaus also allows Ashton to gain practical business management experience and to earn his own income.
Ashton is highly engaged in 4-H and other community activities. As a 4-H’er, he participates in several programs and clubs including 4-H robotics, Chick Chain, Health Rocks!® and more. Pledging his heart to larger service, he volunteers for Dependable Hands Inc. to help the homeless and other less fortunate people in North Alabama. In his spare time, he enjoys baseball, fishing, traveling to new cities and countries and playing video games. Ashton would like to see 4-H provide clubs and programs in video streaming and production, computer engineering and hiking. The future of Alabama 4-H remains bright with young people like Ashton.
Student promotes health, wellness through 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors Program
The 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors Program, an entity of the Alcorn State University Extension Program, is spreading the word that young people can have a voice in advocating for healthy living. Ambassadors within the program promote healthy eating, positive community change and encourage people to engage in physical activities. Additionally, 4-H healthy living ambassadors assist the university in accomplishing the goals of the National 4-H Healthy Living mission mandate, which is to engage youth and families through access and opportunities to achieve optimal physical, social and emotional well-being.
Zachary (Zach) Henry from Jackson, Mississippi, is on his way to helping families in his community live healthier lives. Not only is Henry an Alcorn 4-H healthy living ambassador, but he is also a part of a statewide program called 4-H Healthy Habits, which is funded by the Walmart Foundation and the National 4-H Council.
“This program involves nutrition, education and physical fitness activities,” said Henry. “Its primary goal is to promote healthy living within our 4-H clubs and our county, and ultimately – when all of the counties get involved –throughout the state of Mississippi,” he asserted.
According to Henry, he and other ambassadors take pride in encouraging individuals and families within their communities to make healthy life choices and health conscience decisions.
For more information, visit www.4-h.org/healthyliving. To learn more about the 4-H Youth Development Program at ASU or how to become a 4-H volunteer, contact Manola Erby, youth specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth development professional discovers Extension and 4-H at Central State University
Working for multiple years in youth development, Central State University Extension (CSUE) 4-H regional educator Kevin McGhee was not aware of the opportunities offered by Extension until he joined the fledging team in 2017.
“CSUE was just getting organized, and I thought it would be great to be part of an up-and-coming program,” McGhee says. “I was aware of Extension programs but had no formal background in it. I knew about land-grant universities since Lincoln University of Missouri is also one. My earlier work background was in youth development, which has helped me in my responsibilities within the 4-H program.”
4-H is a community of youth across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills as they work in partnership with adults. The program is committed to helping young people develop skills that will help them succeed and to empower all youth to reach their full potential. CSU Extension strives to meet the needs of underserved and underrepresented youth in urban and rural communities.
As a regional 4-H educator, McGhee creates, plans and administers partnerships with community entities, as well as manages 4-H volunteers. He first joined CSUE as the Montgomery County 4-H educator and is now working as a regional educator throughout multiple counties. Through the past several years with CSU Extension, McGhee knows he has made a difference.
For more information about any CSUE 4-H/youth development program, visit www.CentralState.edu/csuextension.
Rachelle Purnell: A DSU 4-H success story
A Delaware native from Sussex County, Rachelle Purnell first became acquainted with Delaware State University as a sixth-grade member of the DSU 4-H Ladies and Gentlemen’s Club at Sussex Central Middle School in southern Delaware’s Indian River School District. Young Purnell was excited to become a part of the organization after meeting Harry Thayer, DSU 4-H and Youth Development program leader, and his wife, Colleen, then a teacher at Sussex Central Middle School.
“I saw a pensive girl with great potential,” Thayer remembered as his first impression of Purnell. “She was initially cautiously curious about the club; we learned later that she had a sense of humor that could carry her a long way. Rachelle quickly became known for her talents as a peacemaker and unifier.”
“Our job in 4-H is to allow youths to learn and grow into responsible citizens,” Thayer said. “We work to achieve the goal by mentoring, teaching, and providing responsibility and respectability training that allows youths to unlock their potential to become responsible and, more importantly, leaders in life.”
“I learned responsibility and accountability from Mr. and Mrs. Thayer, who instilled in me the necessity to take ownership of my own actions,” said Purnell.
FAMU Extension spotlights Sabrina Hayes, 4-H Extension agent
Sabrina Hayes, Florida A&M University (FAMU) 4-H Extension agent and entomologist, received her Bachelor of Science from the University of West Florida with a major in microbiology. She continued her education at FAMU, wherein she earned her Master of Science in agriculture, specializing in entomology and insect pathology. She is currently working toward a Doctor of Education at Northcentral University, specializing in curriculum and teaching.
Hayes has been a member of the FAMU Cooperative Extension Program for several years, starting out as a volunteer. She came onboard as a 4-H Extension agent a few years ago, wherein her work focused on youth development with programs including leadership, entomology, Agri-STEM and entomophagy. She serves as a 4-H club organizer and volunteer coordinator, where she enjoys sharing the value of 4-H by introducing participants to experiences they would not normally have access to.
Recently, Hayes presented her students to the National 4-H Agri-Science Summit, wherein they made it to the finalist round and were selected to participate in the first National 4-H Dolphin Tank. In April 2021, she served as principal investigator (PI) and was awarded the 4-H Tech Changemakers 3.0 Grant offered by the National 4-H Council. This grant will allow FAMU 4-H to encourage youth to teach digital skills to adults, thereby closing the digital divide and driving economic opportunity in their communities.
Hayes said, “This grant will allow me to continue empowering our youth and contributing to the community.”
Fort Valley State 4-H’er speaks at international summit
Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension 4-H’er Janya Green was the keynote speaker for her international 4-H dialogue with the United Nations Ambassador Kip Tom. The global summit focused on how to make nutritious foods more available and affordable, as well as how to make food systems safer.
Green was invited to a dialogue on food systems at the 2021 Food Systems Summit organized by African regional facilitators, hosted by Major Group for Children and Youth (Youth Focus Group to UNFSS) and HIRED Consult, in collaboration with UNEP MGCY and YOUNGO. Green also spoke at the 2021 National 4-H Agri-Science Summit in March as the FVSU 4-H program virtual leader representative. The summit included attendees from 40 different countries including Brazil, Canada and Africa.
The FVSU Cooperative Extension 4-H Program was recognized again in the Essence Magazine in an article on food insecurity. In addition, on May 3, Green provided leadership for the collaboration effort with the Society of St. Andrews to give away 1,100 boxes of food to 1,100 families in one hour and 30 minutes.
Student discovers career goal through National Summer Transportation Institute
Joseph Spence III, a recent graduate of North Hardin High School in Radcliff, Kentucky, attended Kentucky State's National Summer Transportation Institute in the summer of 2017. The National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) is a residential program designed for middle and high school students to explore careers in the transportation industry.
The primary goal for the NSTI program at Kentucky State is to provide students the opportunity to learn and discover new careers and interests in transportation-related STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and to broaden the participation of women and minorities in those fields.
4-H is a youth development organization that fosters a "learn by doing" approach. All activities, events and programs are centered around the three program areas: STEM, health and well-being, and civic education. The 4-H Youth Development Program at Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension encompasses all three of these program areas through various 4-H camps, clubs and programs that are offered year-round at the Rosenwald Center.
During the summer, camps are offered to youth to promote interest in STEM and agriculture-related careers and promote success in the science field. These programs serve as a gateway into the agriculture undergraduate program at Kentucky State University. Due to his involvement with Kentucky State summer camps and the influence of farmers in his life, Spence has decided to attend Kentucky State in fall 2021 and pursue a career in farming.
Makayla Gilbert: Impacting communities through her 4-H experience
Balancing school and extracurricular activities take determination for today’s high school students. Makayla Gilbert successfully finds balance as an active 4-H club member of the 4 The Hard Way 4-H Club, sponsored by Langston University Cooperative Extension Outreach 4-H Youth Development Program (LU-CEOP). She has been active for three years and passionately believes that her 4-H opportunities have been immensely important and positively influencing her to give back and contribute to her community. She is currently a sophomore at Harding Charter Preparatory High School located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Makayla has been listed on the school’s honor roll since her freshman year and maintains a 4.0 cumulative GPA. She is also actively involved in extracurricular activities such as volleyball, varsity cheer, band and 4-H. Following three years of active membership, Makayla is currently serving as president of the 4 The Hard Way Club.
The club was initially organized as a performing arts club but has evolved into offering many more activities such as woodworking, fishing derbies, soap making, public speaking, music videos, computer programming and farm equipment safety training. As a new 4-H member, Makayla wanted to be a veterinarian; however, her exposure to chemistry at school and activities in the 4 The Hard Way Club have influenced her current decision to pursue the field of chemistry.
“One of our favorite activities in the club is having a chance to help others in the community,” said Makayla.
Missouri student excels as a scholar and leader
Armani Hodges, an 18-year-old senior at Sikeston Senior High in Sikeston, Missouri, has held an array of student leadership positions at her school and is active in her community. She has served as student body president, president of the National Honor Society and president of the ASTRA club, in addition to being team captain for two sports. Outside of school, she has participated in 4-H, served as a Lincoln University youth ambassador, worked as a Lincoln University summer camp mentor, served as a youth member of Police and Community Together (PACT) and attended an event sponsored by Missouri’s Black Legislative Caucus.
Hodges has been involved with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension since she was in kindergarten. She stated, “Lincoln University has given me many opportunities that have aided in my character development and how I see the world. I love spending time with my friends and family, but serving the community has also become one of my favorite activities due to my involvement with LU.”
Hodges indicated that she was also committed to her school. “Throughout my rigorous academic career, I have been involved in a plethora of organizations, programs and courses that have aided in shaping the person I am today,” she stated. “With the many opportunities that I have encountered during my time as a Sikeston Bulldog (high school mascot) and working with Lincoln University, I have had the opportunity of making a positive impact on my community and school in every way possible.”
Kurt Taylor: Growing plants and young people with bright futures
The best Extension professionals see their work as more of a calling than a job and believe in the power of education to improve lives and communities.
Kurt Taylor was one such person. As a 4-H agriscience associate with Extension at North Carolina A&T State University, he helped youth across the state and in some of its most underserved communities gain an understanding and a passion for agricultural science.
“He made this happen by introducing them to some fun projects and then connecting those projects to the power of science,” said Claudette Smith, Ph.D., associate administrator of Extension at A&T and 4-H program leader. “He helped young people see these projects as possible career paths that could lead to a bright future.”
Taylor was only 40 when he passed away in January 2021 after a short illness. But his commitment to providing innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and agriscience programs will continue to impact youth in North Carolina for many years to come.
Taylor was born and raised in Jamaica and was an N.C. A&T alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in Earth and environmental science and master’s degrees in plant, soil and environmental science and professional services agricultural education. His expertise, experience and dedication played a role in some of Extension at A&T’s most impactful programs, including growing greenhouse vegetables for Greensboro residents in food deserts and helping troubled teens and young men build character and self-esteem through hydroponic gardening.
Seymour’s culture fuels 4-H youth development work
Military kids' lives sometimes get a bad rap due to the frequent moving and constant changes in their lifestyles, but there are benefits to being exposed to various cultures and travel at an early age.
Some of those benefits laid the foundation for the life's work of 27-year-old Sayako Seymour, Prairie View A&M University's Cooperative Extension Program's agent in Bexar County. As a 4-H Youth Development agent, Seymour credits her early years as a military kid with planting the seeds for her current success with young people.
"Looking back, I was exposed to so much more since I spent summers in Japan," Seymour said. "That's where I learned to appreciate a different culture and learned English as a second language."
Years later, those early lessons helped fuel her passion for working with children who may lack access to critical services. Seymour is responsible for providing workshops and seminars that offer new skills and knowledge to her young stakeholders as a county agent.
"I've always loved working with children, always volunteered and I believe in our (4-H) motto, 'Learn by doing.' Children learn best by being out in the field and doing," she said.
Born to a Japanese mother and a Caucasian father, Seymour has been immersed in two cultures, something she didn't cherish at the time. "Now, as an adult, I appreciate that exposure. I see how it sparked my interest in other cultures, backgrounds and different religions," Seymour said. Her exposure to various cultures now contributes to her success on the job, which she has held for three years.
Connecting individuals to a purpose-driven life
For nearly two decades, SC State University 1890 Research and Extension agent Cornelius Hamilton, ’02, has connected families and individuals to opportunities and resources that help to improve their living conditions and provide a purpose-driven life for youth across the state of South Carolina.
“I strive to help our youth reach their full potential through engaging experiences that enhance their skill sets,” said Hamilton, 4-H youth development agent for the SC State 1890 Low Country region, which serves Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
Since 2003, Hamilton has remained committed to improving the quality of life of communities in the Low Country region by spearheading youth development projects and activities that focus on the development of basic life skills.
“I believe what we offer at SC State 1890 Research and Extension can be used to help our participants become productive citizens,” said the SC State alumnus, who earned his bachelor’s in physical education with a concentration in sports communication. “I hope that everything we do is a learning opportunity for our participants to develop skills in at least one of our youth development program areas.”
The program areas to which Hamilton refers include STREA2M (science, technology, reading, engineering, agriculture, arts and mathematics), citizenship, healthy lifestyles and financial management.
His first few years as an Extension agent, Hamilton worked to coordinate the TechBridge Summer Academy. During the five-week program, dozens of rising seventh- and eighth-grade students were taught to build and operate their own computer.
Kayla Fontenot aims to bring a sense of belonging to youth
Kayla Fontenot is a youth development agent for the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center. She can be best described as a lover of nature, animals, sports and all things outdoors. Growing up in rural Louisiana as a 4-H’er, it made perfect sense that she would eventually choose agriculture as a career. Fontenot recalls very fond memories of 4-H at Lawtell Elementary School in Opelousas, Louisiana. It was Marvel Guidry, her then physical education teacher, who would provide this unique learning experience that has molded Fontenot’s career today.
“She cared about our health, connecting our families and community. She was the epitome of a sense of belonging when it came to 4-H. I knew eventually when I grew up that’s what I wanted to do,” said Fontenot.
For the past five years, Fontenot has developed youth programming in southwest Louisiana, once again bringing that same sense of belonging to her community. When asked about her programmatic guiding principles, she said that dedication is one of the main takeaways for youth who participate in gardening projects.
“Many of the projects that we do with gardening takes a lot of dedication. It can mean early mornings, hot sunny evenings, after-hours and even on the weekend,” she said.
Motivation has also been a major guiding principle for Fontenot as she navigates through the new norm of virtual programming during a pandemic. “My goal as an Extension agent has always been to follow the many youths that we service through whatever processes they may go through,” said Fontenot.
Walter Malone: Willing to serve
Walter Malone, Extension agent III in Sullivan County, Tennessee, has been working as an Extension agent ever since he graduated college. His wife is also from that area and both of their families have Sullivan County farms. Now the father of two young daughters, Malone has committed to teaching about agriculture to audiences ranging from elementary students to young adults.
How do you strive to reach underserved youth?
Malone: Forming partnerships to conduct technology classes for teens, programs for young African American women and after-school 4-H programs for a city high school have provided an avenue for 4-H to reach those who may have needed that special opportunity to participate. I believe a key is to be willing to serve when and where an opportunity presents itself.
What would you say to a college student who is interested in a career as a 4-H agent?
Malone: I would be sure to ask them, “Do you enjoy people?” Do they like being around people, having conversations, interactions (some good, some perhaps not)? Being a 4-H agent involves communicating with many people. They should enjoy working with others and want to help others learn, achieve and improve their quality of life.
Macon County teen making his mark
A gentle giant, a quiet spirit, a role model - Godwin Bolaji Owolabi has excelled in the agriculture-related aspects of his life, in addition to his academic accomplishments, religious involvements and community service.
Throughout the course of the last seven years, Bolaji (as he is affectionately known) has continued to display his understanding of Extension objectives by taking advantage of the programs, projects, activities and other ag-related opportunities designed for youth life skills development, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focus, civic engagement and healthy living.
While in secondary school, he participated consistently in the Youth Scholar Bowl held at the annual Farmers Conference, the youth development activities at the PAWC (Professional Agricultural Workers Conference) and the Jr. MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) Conference and Leadership Institutes. Additionally, he participated in the annual Goat Showmanship Competitions, the Career Expo, the Water Festival, impromptu speaking competitions, annual science fairs and more, sponsored by the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP).
Bolaji learned at an early age the importance of involving himself in a variety of activities through diverse agencies such as the Junior Master Gardener Program, Citizen Washington Focus and the East Alabama Workers Investment Program as a volunteer/facilitator. Most recently, for his participation in Alabama’s livestock industry, he received a scholarship from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians at the Southeastern Livestock Expo Rodeo.
Pine Bluff teen aims to pursue career in education to give back to community
Sixteen-year-old Keiren D. Minter is already on his way to becoming a great educator, according to Teki Hunt, director of the 4-H Youth Development Program for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Minter, a sophomore at Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff and a regular participant of UAPB 4-H programming, recently won first place in the Educators Rising Moment Competition at the organization’s southern region conference.
For the competition, Minter wrote and delivered a speech about his personal beliefs on the power of education and the reason he aims to pursue a career in the field.
“I want to break the stereotype that future generations are not going to do anything great,” he said. “I would like to give back to my community the education that has been bestowed upon me.’’
Following his win, Minter will compete in the Educators Rising National Conference in June. Minter’s involvement in UAPB 4-H programming is through the Students of Achievement and Responsibility (SOAR) after-school and summer program. Last year, he attended the National 4-H Summit for Healthy Living in Washington, D.C., as a teen ambassador. He also participated in the Ag Innovators Experience, which is sponsored by Bayer, and gave a presentation on environmental issues at a local elementary school.
UMES Extension’s Lisa Murphy promotes National Junior Master Gardener program
Lisa Murphy loves gardening and devotes her time to promoting an appreciation of it and the environment through the National Junior Master Gardener program. Murphy, a 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) senior agent associate with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) Extension, is the Maryland state coordinator for the program that provides resources for parents, teachers and Extension faculty and staff who support local educators.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Murphy attended the 2020 Junior Master Gardener Leader Training Conference at Texas A&M, where she was certified for the Cooperative Extension System’s youth gardening program. According to Murphy, JMG “engages children in novel, hands-on learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment and cultivate the mind.”
Through UMES Extension, Murphy is offering youth ages 8-11 a series of seven virtual classes April-July that once completed will move participants toward 4-H Junior Master Gardener Level One Certification. Murphy disseminated a handbook and starter bag of gardening items to the dozen registrants who put them to use during a service-learning project making a “salad table” at a community garden in nearby Princess Anne. The UMES Extension 4-H JMG group, Murphy said, is learning about plant development and propagation, soil, water and nutrient requirements and composting.
Empowering youth to teach computer skills to adults
Virginia State University’s (VSU) 4-H Program recently received a $141,000 grant to expand efforts to empower teens to teach digital skills to adults.
The National 4-H Tech Changemakers (TCM) program uses a teens-as-teachers approach with teen leaders learning digital skills to teach to adults. The teens become certified Tech Changemakers and work in partnership with their 4-H educators to use prepared lesson plans to virtually teach digital skills to adults in their communities. The lesson plans focus on digital skills that help drive economic opportunity.
Tech Changemakers across the country are expected to reach about 50,000 adults in rural communities over the next year and enable them to use the skills they learn to achieve greater economic opportunity. The TCM program is a collaboration between the National 4-H Council, Verizon, Microsoft, Land O’ Lakes and land-grant universities.
Dr. Chantel Wilson, 4-H STEAM Extension specialist with the Cooperative Extension at VSU, said the program not only helps youth become leaders and adults and computer literate, but also helps bridge the technology gap, generational gap and foster greater collaboration between youth and adults.
Localities served include two returning communities in Charlotte and Halifax counties and 16 new communities in Amelia, Bedford, Campbell, Clarke, Gloucester, Greensville, Isle of Wight, Madison, Montgomery, Nottoway, Prince Edward and Rockbridge counties, as well as the cities of Bristol, Lynchburg, Roanoke and Salem. The program will also include localities closer to VSU, including Prince George County and the cities of Petersburg and Richmond.
Virginia Cooperative Extension extends the resources of Virginia's two land-grant universities, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech, to solve problems facing Virginians every day.
WVSU 4-H brings Spanish education to West Virginia youths
West Virginia State University (WVSU) 4-H Instructional Coordinator Ana Karen Gatica Toledo is on a mission to create more bilingual West Virginians with a new program that teaches basic Spanish to young people.
“It dawned on me that students were lacking exposure and opportunities to communicate in Spanish outside of class,” said the Mexico native. “I wanted to create a course of study that could involve family members to use Spanish in a continuing communicative manner and low-pressure situations that they experience normally in life, such as dinnertime and morning and nightly routines.”
Roughly 1 percent of West Virginians speak Spanish at home, Toledo said, and she has made it her personal commitment to increase that number. Last year, she began developing a self-paced digital program called Spanish en Familia, offering guidance to promote Spanish language proficiency at home.
Participants have access to a guide that includes training videos, conversational phrases along with audio, complementary resources such as listening and reading materials, and suggested review hands-on activities.
Toledo has already been piloting Spanish-speaking programs with program participants and plans to formally launch Spanish en Familia this fall.