Leah with other counselors at Camp Timpoochee
Leah Lewis has been a devoted 4-H camper for the last ten years. She attended her first week of summer at the age of eight and was hooked. Leah counted the days and years until she could join the ranks of her heroes – the 4-H camp cabin counselors.
Since ninth grade, Leah has served as a camp counselor – leading a cabin of 4-H youth during a week or more of residential camp. Her service in this capacity has been exemplary. Leah’s accomplishment as a counselor earned her an invitation to serve in a leadership role for the annual Marine Camp. This invite-only opportunity is only given to the best of our 4-H camp counselors.
From 4-H Camp to County and State Leadership Opportunities
Leah in the FL House of Representatives chamber in Tallahassee
In eleventh grade, Leah took her 4-H involvement to another level when she became part of our Teen District Leadership Council. She served as president for the Wakulla 4-H Teen Leadership Club and led the club to apply for and complete a 4-H Pride Grant Project to do county clean up after Hurricane Michael.
During her senior year of high school, Leah also served on the 4-H State Executive Board. In this role, she planned the annual Legislative Day at the state capitol. Her efforts helped produced a successful 4-H Day at the Capitol experience for over 800 youth and their families from throughout Florida.
Leah had this to say about the impacts of 4-H on her personal development, “4-H has prepared me for what it’s like to be away from family and being independent for yourself. It’s taught me to think outside the box and allow me to grow as a person.”
Her favorite 4-H experience was attending the Southern Region Teen Leadership Conference. Leah said, “My favorite experience so far has been SRTLC. I enjoyed meeting all kinds of people in the south and I loved giving back to the community with our bag pack project.”
Reflecting on her time in 4-H, Leah’s message to other youth thinking about 4-H offered this advice, “I would tell them that 4-H is a safe place and a second home to anyone. They could learn many activities to help with everyday life and find lifelong friendships!”
Perspective from a Proud Parent
Leah’s mother, Angela, said being part of 4-H did wonderful things for her daughter, “Without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have made was allow Leah to be part of 4-H. The leadership, work ethic, responsibility and team building skills she has learned, will help her in her future endeavors. 4-H has given Leah the confidence and the ability to be able to meet more people and form many friendships. She has obtained important leadership skills and is now confident with public speaking and leading group projects. 4-H has instilled a great work ethic into Leah with projects that require time management, dedication, and hard work. Leah has been a camp counselor for the past 4 years and has worked as a gymnastics coach at IGG for the past 2 ½ years. Leah has really enjoyed being on many committees including 4-H Day at the Capital and CCS. Leah will truly miss being part of 4-H and going to summer camp when she starts college this fall.”
Wakulla County 4-H is proud of Leah Lewis. From organizing service projects to planning teen retreats for her peers, Leah has shown she has the capacity to lead others. Her work ethic has enabled her to hold a job, play sports, continue an active role in 4-H, and maintain her grades. We look forward to the many successes she will make in her future endeavors.
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 visit http://florida4h.org.
April is National Volunteer Month. Throughout the month of April, 4-H programs in counties across the Northwest UF/IFAS Extension District from Jefferson to Escambia counties take time to recognize volunteers and the contributions those volunteers make with their time and talent to youth development in their communities. Ken Gooding is a 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteer Leader in Wakulla County. Ken serves as President for the county’s 4-H shooting sports advisory group. He also provides organizational and content expertise for the program in a volunteer coordinator capacity.
Ken Gooding volunteers on the range teaching archery and skeet shooting.
Ken co-founded the Wakulla 4-H Shooting Sports Club now known as “4-H Sharpshooters” in 2018. Since that time, the club has grown to include over forty youth members who learn archery and skeet shooting and ten adult volunteers who support club activities. In his volunteer role with Shooting Sports, Ken leads adult volunteers and develops youth leaders.
Leading Leaders of All Ages with 4-H
After he became a state certified Level One Shooting Sports Instructor in 2018, Ken continued his training at the national level. In 2019, Ken became nationally certified as a Level Two shooting sports archery instructor. This credential qualifies Ken to teach adult volunteers seeking Level One certification in archery.
For Ken, volunteering with 4-H is an expression of his passion for giving back to the community. Ken said, “I volunteer with 4-H because I believe I have a responsibility to share the skills I have with next generation and 4-H gives me the tools I need to effectively pass on this skill to a wide variety of youth in my community that would not otherwise have the opportunity that 4-H provides.
Giving Back to the Community
4-H volunteers help UF/IFAS Extension to amplify their reach into the community. Volunteers are said to be the civic heart of most communities. Ken shared his perspective on why he believes it is important to volunteer in the community:
“To actually be a member of a community, a person must have a vested interest in the success of the community. In the past, that interest was expressed in the general desire to see the community as a whole grow and flourish. Each member brought a particular skillset that when joined with others enabled the community to flourish. But each member also felt a duty or responsibility was owed to the community they helped to build, the community that provided for their individual success and prosperity. This is where 4-H, only one small opportunity for our community members can give back, comes in. Every one of our neighbors has a skill or a passion that they are uniquely qualified to impart to the youth of our community and 4-H has the tools each one of us needs to see that the lessons we’ve learned over a lifetime are not lost to time.”
Ken had a message to share about why he believes everyone should take time to volunteer. He noted the tremendous efforts often exhibited during times of emergency and shared that he often wonders what good things would happen if we all put a tenth of that energy into their community on a daily basis. In closing, Ken said that if he could make an ask of the community, he would ask that, “Each and every member of every community give a little bit of themselves back to their community. Think about, with that small commitment, what kinds of changes for the better could be achieved. I’ll be willing to bet, you’ll receive a greater return for your efforts.”
When Ken is not busy with 4-H, he works as a barge captain on the Mississippi River and volunteers with the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office at the Sheriff’s shooting range. He also raises rabbits and chickens with his wife, Trena. Ken also shares his talents as a professional deejay with 4-H. Whether he is teaching archery or making the party happen with music, Ken is a valued volunteer and an inspiring role model for aspiring leaders of all ages.
For more information about UF/IFAS Extension programs, follow this link to connect with your local office.
On January 30th, over 900 4-H youth and parents converged on the Florida Capitol. The hallways were filled with youth dressed in green polo shirts. The delegation represented the more than 208,000 4-H members, ages 5-18, through 4-H clubs, 4-H camps and school enrichment programs across the state.
Youth Advocacy in Action
Representative Jason Shoaf addressed youth from Franklin, Liberty, and Wakulla counties.
The annual Day at the Capitol offers youth the opportunity to develop a better understanding of how government functions and to practice advocacy skills representing 4-H during meetings with Florida’s governor and legislators.
During the visit, 4-H’ers and their families have the opportunity to educate members of the Florida Legislature about the effect 4-H participation has on the lives of Floridians throughout the state. 4-H offers a robust array of programs that include the Tropicana Public Speaking Competition, residential camps, STEM education, and projects in a number of interest areas that range from citizenship to financial management, and agriculture, among others.
A Full Day of Exciting Activities
The day began with a greeting from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Deputy Commissioner Deborah Tannenbaum addressed the sea of 4-H green in the Capitol courtyard. After the opening ceremonies, 4-H youth and families dispersed to begin their day of advocacy and meetings with legislators. This year, 4-H delegates focused on advocating for educational center improvements for the three residential education centers statewide commonly referred to by youth as “camps,” which all youth in all 67 counties have opportunities to attend programs at.
Other activities throughout the day included tours of the Senate and House chambers where 4-H youth engaged in mock debates and learned how their elected officials follow an official process to move up or down on proposed legislation. Youth also had the opportunity to engage in a scavenger hunt for stickers that had them searching for specific offices and landmarks throughout the Capitol complex. Many youth were also tracking their steps as part of a wellness challenge and recorded several miles of walking during the day. Other highlights of the day included taking in the view from the 22nd floor of the Capitol and touring the Old Capitol Museum.
All in all, it was another engaging experience for our 4-H youth and families to experience. If you would like to learn more information about this program or other great 4-H programs in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.
Quincee Messersmith serves as the Wakulla 4-H Advisory Council chairwoman and as co-leader of the 4-H IncrEdibles Cooking Club. When she is not volunteering with Wakulla 4-H, her duties as a Wakulla County Commissioner keep her busy.
This devoted volunteer and public servant is a wife, mother, and a cancer survivor. There are few events in Wakulla where Quincee cannot be found making a difference. She is just as likely to don an apron to wash dishes in the kitchen as she is to be acting as mistress of ceremonies.
Quincee, along with other 4-H volunteers distributed supplies after Hurricane Michael.
What is a role model?
According to Quincee, “A role model is someone who shows passion and inspires, has a clear set of values, demonstrates commitment to the community, is selfless and accepts others, and has the ability to overcome life’s obstacles.” Quincee believes role models can make a big difference in a child’s life. She believes that “role models, like goals, can truly be the emotional or intellectual bridge to a child’s future. A child who finds an adult who “lives-out” the selfless image they portray, and who engages in hands-on activity with that child to help them accomplish something by their own efforts, no matter how simple, then has a mental picture of whom they want to be when they grow up.”
Why Volunteer with 4-H?
In Quincee’s own words, “Children need direction, discipline, leadership and something positive to guide their lives and to help them pick the right path as they go and grow.”
Quincee believes that the youth in 4-H programs are no different from youth involved in any other service club. Each has different passions and interests, and each also has different economic structures and parental involvement..”
She explained, “The common goal for me with regard to being a 4-H role model is that we all are in need of an adult or mentor to whom we can look to for help and direction. If children find someone assisting them at their level that has a community reputation for leadership, someone who is involved at high levels of neighborhood activity and the daily conversations of their communities, they are not only interested, but also often fascinated. Situations such as this can make the positive difference in a child’s life.”
Living the 4-H Way
The four “H’s” have inspired Quincee in her approach to service and being a role model.
She said, “for me personally the 4-H Head, Heart, Hands and Health embodies something that we could all use more of in our lives, I believe that concentrating on these four H’s can help make our communities stronger and more sustainable for the future
Quincee led 4-H youth in serving cake at the county’s founding day celebration on “Wakulla Wonderful” Day.
Exploring New Activities with 4-H Club and Camp
When Chase Weston arrived at a meeting of the Panacea 4-H Explorers Club for the first time, he was not sure he wanted to be there. Chase’s normal activities of choice included reading and playing video games. He rarely played with other children and did not usually enjoy playing outdoors.
The Panacea 4-H Explorers Club meets weekly and offers youth the opportunity to sample activities ranging from painting and cooking to outdoor skills. Members march in parades and volunteer together at community events.
Getting Active With Archery
Chase receives archery instruction from Club Leader Trena Gooding.
From that first day attending an Explorers Club meeting, during his time with 4-H, the once very reserved and quiet boy has undergone a dramatic transformation. This summer, Chase had the opportunity to participate in a two day archery summer camp. On the first day, he did not want to participate and asked to go home. On the second day he started to warm up to archery and by the end of the day he did not want the camp to end!
Club Leader Rhonda Lundy said, “I have seen a drastic change in Chase through his participation in 4-H. He is definitely trying things outside his comfort zone and his parents couldn’t be happier.” Chase accepted the opportunity to attend Camp Timpoochee with support from a 4-H state scholarship. During his week at camp, Chase enjoyed activities like dance class and kayaking. He was able to continue with his newfound love for archery during residential camp.
Happiness in a Hammock at Camp
Chase enjoys free time in a hammock at Camp Timpoochee.
While he has stepped outside his comfort zone and tried many new activities during the week, Chase declared his favorite thing at Camp Timpoochee was enjoying the view from the vantage point from one of the many hammocks strung between trees throughout camp.
Links to Resources
For more information on how your family can participate in 4-H, find your local UF IFAS Extension Office and contact your 4-H Agent to explore what programs are offered in your area.
Benefits of Summer Camp
Camp Choices with 4-H
Youth Development Outcomes of Camp Experiences