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Senior Continues to Serve After Graduation

Sydney English, Santa Rosa 4-H member and FL 4-H Officer serving as Sergeant-at-Arms.

All Sydney English ever knew was Louisiana. It was home. At the age of five, Hurricane Katrina hit and Sydney’s life was turned upside-down. With a complete loss of her town and neighborhood, her family decided to move back to Santa Rosa County, Florida where her parents were raised. Little Sydney found herself in a new town, in a new county, in a new state. Soon her mother reached out to Santa Rosa County 4-H to help Sydney make connections and allow her to feel part of something.

Prudence Caskey, the current Santa Rosa County 4-H Agent, met Sydney and her family at the county fair. Shortly thereafter, Sydney was enrolled in 4-H and attended her first meeting in hopes of finding some new friends in her new hometown. Over the next few years, Sydney would find many friends and even find herself.

One of the first events that Sydney attended was 4-H Day at the Capitol. Sydney was enamored with the Legislative process as well at the respect of the elected positions. Sydney decided she would attend 4-H Legislature as soon as she was old enough. Elected as a district officer, Sydney also became a member of the 4-H Executive Board. This was a time in her life where she had to make a tough decision.  She wanted to serve on the Executive Board, but would be unable to due to her volleyball practice obligations.  After much thought, Sydney told her parents, “I have decided to step down from the volleyball team.  I have been thinking about it and I thought, what would volleyball do for me in the years to come?  4-H will do a lot more for me! I’m gonna stay in 4-H.”

Now, all these years later, Sydney has given more to 4-H than she could know.  She has served as a camp counselor and mentor for over 50 youth from across her 4-H district.  Sydney also had the distinction of representing the entire Panhandle of Florida as a 4-H State Officer, serving as Sergeant-at-Arms.   This summer, she is excited to have the role as Camp Staff at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake.  As she plans for graduation, Sydney hopes to attend law school and become a political attorney. 4-H has made her who she is and with her service, she is helping to make Florida 4-H even better!

To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as independence, goal setting, and decision making to your children so that they will grow up to become successful leaders like Sydney, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office, or follow us on Facebook.

 

Graduating Senior Serving Club, Community and Even His Country

Santa Rosa 4-H member, Private 1st Class Wolf, serves his country in the United States Army.

Receiving an official title can be very exciting for a new employee.  Santa Rosa County 4-H member, Payton Wolfe has a new title and he hasn’t even graduated from high school yet.  His new title is now Private 1st Class Wolfe.  You see, Payton is serving the United States of America in the Army.  Wolfe completed his Basic Combat Training during the summer between his Junior and Senior years of high school.  He has officially been in the Army for quite some time now.

Payton Wolfe has a love of animal husbandry and has hatched over 5,000 eggs throughout his high school career.  During his many years in 4-H, he has raised numerous types of poultry including quail, chickens, pheasants, turkeys and ducks.  “I even had a couple of cows, but they were really just for pets, I never showed them,” Payton explained.

Along with animals, Payton has learned to have a heart of service for a long time.  He has completed over 300 hours of community service while in Santa Rosa County 4-H.  He has served his club as an officer, his community in service projects whenever needed, and now Payton will serve his country in the United States Army for six years.  Enrolling in the Army Veterinarian Specialist program seemed like a natural fit for him.  He will be helping care for bomb dogs and horses. Thank you for your dedication and service to our country Private First Class Wolfe!

We are proud that Payton is using the skills he learned as a member of 4-H to protect our country and are excited to see how he will continue to serve his world in the years to come.  To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as leadership, independence, and goal setting to your children so that they will grow up to become successful members of society and have a heart of service like Payton, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office, or follow us on Facebook.

 

Graduating Senior:  Gentle Giant, Giant Impact

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!

Jamin Marks, Holmes County 4-H Member and graduating Senior.

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 as a camper in 2014.

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.

Graduating Seniors Breaking Barriers

Graduation is that bitter sweet moment of finally closing the high school chapter of life and diving into adulthood.  Involvement with 4-H can help ease this transition for many young adults.  4-H teaches youth life skills through positive youth development opportunities.  These opportunities allow them to navigate the world through experiential learning, the “learn by doing” approach, so they may develop skills to rely on for many years after their time spent in 4-H.  Two Walton County 4-H’ers are preparing to do just that, but it hasn’t always been an “easy row to hoe.”

JACKSON LEATH

Jackson receiving his annual Clover Award

Jackson Leath started his journey in Walton County 4-H at age eight.  He was involved in local clubs and even traveled to Washington D.C. and summer camp.  However, after several battles with anxiety, Jackson took a break from 4-H for many years.  In 2015, he decided to try out the Walton County Teen Council Club with a few friends.  This led him to volunteering at day camps, leading group recreation with campers, and ultimately becoming a Junior Counselor for summer camp!  Jackson overcame many hurdles along the way but regained his confidence and independence so greatly that it fueled his passion for leadership and service to others.  

 

Jackson’s goal has always been, “to show kids that 4-H is fun and to give them the memories I’ve had here.”  After conquering any fear or doubts, Jackson has been active in multiple community clubs, has been a Camp Timpoochee Camp Counselor for 4 years, volunteered at numerous day camps, and held multiple offices on the county level.  Jackson’s confidence has also led him to accomplishments at school which include Captain of the soccer team and officer positions in various clubs.  

CHEYENNE DUNCAN

Cheyenne competing at State Tailgating competition

Cheyenne Duncan moved to the Florida Panhandle in 2014.  Within her freshman year of high school, Cheyenne battled bullying, abusive relationships, and depression.  Through her involvement with 4-H and becoming a Junior Camp Counselor to “try camp,” (as an effort from her mother and 4-H Agent to turn negatives into positives), Cheyenne blossomed!  During a heartfelt conversation on a Camp Timpoochee bench, Cheyenne shared with her 4-H Agent that “this 4-H stuff really works!”  Cheyenne not only conquered her adversaries, but she also became driven to share her story with others in 4-H, the community, and the State to help other teens that may be facing the same battles.  Cheyenne has led many community clubs in all offices, competed at County Events, shown livestock in the local Fair, volunteered countless hours during day camps and will be serving her 5th year as a Camp Timpoochee Camp Counselor.  Her champion spirit has also led her to complete the following in school:  2 years as Soccer Team Captain, 1 year assistant coach for spring soccer, multiple years dedicated to soccer, track and cross country along with 4 years of Jr ROTC and Drill with the accompanying ribbons to match!

Furthermore, not only have both Jackson and Cheyenne displayed what #TRUELEADERS are in 4-H and school extracurricular activities, but both are successfully working multiple jobs in the workforce as well!  Through their experiential learning, both have seen many times of great achievement and possibly a few failures; however, 4-H provided a safe place for our youth to experience failure, learn from it, and ultimately Make the Best Better. 

To get more involved in 4-H, find your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and ask your County 4-H Agent how to join!

4-H Graduate Spotlight

Youth walking across a field

Soon to be Chipley High School graduates and 4-H alumni – Connor and Dylan

The graduation countdown is on for Dylan Rudd and Connor Barrett.  Sure Shots 4-H Club members for over six years, these guys have grown up together on the range of Hard Labor Creek Shooting Sports.

Both Connor and Dylan are excellent marksman and were on the state winning shotgun team this year and have amassed numerous individual awards in skeet, trap and sporting clays.  While their skills have grown, competition has never gotten in the way of friendship and the sense of team that’s been the key to success with the Sure Shots club.

They’ve served as mentors to their teammates – coaching them through tough spots, giving them advice and always being helpful on and off the range.

I distinctly remember Dylan and Connor talking to my oldest son, Cole, at his second state shotgun match.  Nerves were getting to him, so Connor and Dylan talked to him, told him to concentrate and focus on what he knew and to quit looking back at his dad after every shot. That interaction did more for him than any talking-to his coaches could have done for him at that match.

Youth walking with shotgun over his shoulder.

Dylan participating in the 2014 club match.

Youth shooting a skeet target.

Conner in his first year as a Sure Shots 4-H Club member.

That team mentality has been present with both of these guys since I’ve known them.  They totally get that individual scores are a huge deal in shooting sports.  They’ve competed against each other in countless 4-H competitions and matches outside of 4-H, but at the end of the day, they are teammates.

Outside of 4-H, both Dylan and Connor are talented members of the Chipley High School band and maintain a rigorous course load to prepare them for careers in the engineering field.

 

We wish these guys the greatest success in college and can’t wait to see where their lives take them!
Mrs. Julie & Coaches Andy Fleener, Gary Clark, Nick Dillard & Sam Rudd