Have you ever had one of those kids in your life that just towered over you? You know, the kid in your 4-H club, the student in your classroom, or maybe your next door neighbor’s child that just grew every year and made you feel like you were not eating your Wheaties enough. He would be the one that, if you had to have a talk with him, you have to stand on a chair with your tip toes to look eye level, yet he would be just as mild mannered as a teddy bear. He is the youth whose laugh is contagious and his presence fills the entire room. Well, Holmes County 4-H has one of those gentle giants in our midst, Jamin Marks, and I assure you, he is going to be missed in our 4-H family!
Recently, I went to a local K-8 grade school to recruit new campers for our 4-H Camp Timpoochee summer camping program. While speaking to some students, they initially acted like they might be “too cool” for summer camp. I realized I needed to change my approach of introducing 4-H summer camp to this audience so I stopped mid-sentence into my introduction and simply asked them who knew Jamin Marks, the graduating senior football player from our community. Almost all of the student body raised their hands and I heard quite a few kids throwing out comments such as “he is so cool,” and “Jamin’s my man.” I then asked how many knew that Jamin was a 4-Her and has been to 4-H Camp Timpoochee almost every year since he was 8 years old. Some hands went down, then gasps, and then a rumble started to occur. Finally, I told the group that this was Jamin’s last year at camp and then asked who wanted to sign up for 4-H Camp Timpoochee this year. Every hand in the room shot straight to the ceiling! I knew this was the way to reach my audience because I knew that Jamin has been such a profound impact in the community for many of these younger kids without him even realizing it. That is Jamin, our gentle giant with a giant impact that has made a lasting impression for years to come.
Jamin began his 4-H journey by participating in 4-H summer camp at Camp Timpoochee as a camper. Then, in the summer of 2016, Jamin excelled in the role of counselor. He used his gentle gift of humor to ease the fears of new campers, create a sense of belonging, and lighten the mood if tensions were high after a long day of fun and sun. In addition, Jamin began using his leadership skills to help his peers understand the effects of bullying. It did not take long for Jamin to become one of the most requested counselors at summer camp every year. That is our Jamin, our gentle giant, creating a safe environment for every child to feel included.
Jamin believes that being involved in Holmes County 4-H is like being part of a big family and his reference to me as “Mama Niki” tells me where I rate in his circle. His expression of gratitude to all of the 4-H volunteers for their support over the years generates a huge thanks and expressive hug. And, as we conclude the interview for my blog, Jamin can’t help himself. He ends it with, “Mama Niki, you know I am going to become a 4-H volunteer, so I can come back to camp every year and help you with your campers.” I just end the conversation with a huge smile. That is our Jamin, always our gentle giant.
To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as independence, organizational skills, and goal setting, to your children or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office, or follow us on Facebook.