On the Power of an Invitation

4-H Member Claire and her 4-H leader leading a session called “I don’t mean to be rude, but you look like a dude” at the Idaho State Contest.

Practitioner Tip Tuesday

By Guest Blogger Claire Sponseller, 4-H Educator

Umatilla County, Oregon

I have thoroughly been enjoying Mary’s blogs as they are driving me to think more on what we as professionals can do to see 4-H youth thrive. So on that note, I’ll throw caution to the wind and hope to aid more thought on a thriving Oregon 4-H.

I, too, was a product of 4-H in Ada County, Idaho and had a pretty special relationship with my 4-H leaders and fellow club members. I started in 4-H because I was asked, which seems how most things still happen in 4-H. I dabbled in a little bit of everything, from livestock projects to youth leadership, but I keep landing back on: “What made my 4-H career a professional career?” It was those youth-adult partnerships and the comradery with my peers. Those same peers and leaders were at my wedding 20 some years later. They became my extended family, supporting me through college and guiding me to Extension and where I am now.

So when I think about my job as a 4-H agent (or whatever you would like to title it: faculty member, educator, jack-of-all-trades), I want to build on that thriving model. But I also want to emulate it in my day to day practices. I want to take the time at that Saturday event and talk with my leaders, see how they are doing, what they have planned. Yes, I hear personal stories, especially as I consider some my friends, but I believe that rapport is invaluable for the relationship and trust we build for our organization.

The same especially goes for our youth. I remember the first time I asked a teen to join our Ambassador team, I didn’t think anything of it. I knew the potential this young man had and knew he would make an excellent asset. Little did I know how impactful that was to not only him, but his parents as well. Looking back I shouldn’t be surprised, I needed the same 4-H push from someone who had more confidence in me than I had in myself. That young man flourished, coming out of his shell not only as a young adult, but as a misfit in a small town no more. I was so proud to see what kind of man he became.

Do I believe 4-H was the only influence on that growth? No. But I know 4-H and our organization played a big part. That is what keeps me smiling and proud to work for a better 4-H. As we are having conversations around our next strategic plan, I am enjoying the discussions on how we as faculty are working hard to keep one foot in academia and one foot in reality. That is what keeps us grounded. That is what connects and helps us relate to our volunteers, youth, and extended 4-H family.

Thriving  On,

Claire Sponseller

Claire and her mom at a dragon parade in Warsaw, Poland

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