Madison County’s University of Missouri Extension Center has welcomed two new people to its 4-H Program this year. Brad Coleman is the new 4-H youth specialist serving the county and Jacqulyn Ward has stepped in as 4-H youth program associate.
With the addition of Coleman and Ward, the program is seeing renewed support.
As a retired educator with 22 years of experience as a public high school principal, Coleman has spent his entire career working with youth.
“It was always my goal and my passion to help our youth become responsible, contributing members of society,” Coleman said. “Serving as the youth specialist for Madison, Iron and Reynolds counties allows me to continue to provide leadership and guidance to the youth of the area. I want to build the confidence and leadership skills of our youth and see them thrive in our society.”
Coleman has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Southeast Missouri University and a master’s degree and specialist degree in secondary administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ward, a local Fredericktown High School graduate, studied child development and health management at Mineral Area College and Southeast Missouri University.
Ward said, more than 100 years ago, a schoolmaster in rural Ohio named A.B. Graham held an organized meeting of the corn club. She said that first meeting led into what is known today as 4-H.
“He (Graham) stated that he saw a need for our youth to actively engage in their community,” Ward said. “There was an emphasis on the knowledge of soil, animal agriculture, tools, cookery and homemaking.”
Coleman said in 1914, Iron County established its own Corn Club at the Ironton High school. He said this club was Missouri’s first major development for extension.
“Seven boys joined the this club, which was led by B.P. Burnham, Ironton school superintendent,” Coleman said. “The boys each raised an acre of corn using the very latest agricultural research to gain improved yields.”
Ward said the clubs began forming across the country and were designed to meet specific needs of their environment and community.
“These Corn Clubs, and the girls’ version, Canning Clubs, helped introduce modern methods of growing and preserving farm products,” Coleman said. “In the 1920s, these Corn Clubs and Canning Clubs were renamed 4-H Clubs, emphasizing agricultural and homemaking skills.”
Coleman said 4-H has come a long way, offering projects ranging from computers to rocketry to robots.
“Today, the mission of engaging youth and allowing them to learn and grow by doing, while guided by adult volunteers and tested curriculum, remains the same,” Ward said. “Overall, 4-H and Extension has something to offer everyone, and that is wonderful.”
Ward said her first goal is to boost awareness for 4-H and to help provide opportunities for every interested youth.
“The University of Missouri Extension is an excellent resource for our county, and it houses one of the largest youth organizations in the U.S.,” Ward said. “Extension pursues the goal of ‘Never Stop Learning’ and 4-H’s slogan of ‘Learn by Doing’ aims to accomplish their goals of personal and community growth and career success.”
Coleman said 4-H is an informal education program that is community-based, group-focused and family-oriented, operated by youth specialists and parent volunteers.
“4-H is the largest youth-serving organization in the world,” Coleman said. “4-H welcomes youth ages 5 to 18 who are interested in learning more about themselves, their community and their hobbies or interests.”
Coleman said 4-H prepares kids for the future while making new friends and great memories. He said club meetings provide members opportunities to meet people in the club and decide important issues about recreation, fundraising, community service and other activities.
“Youth work with adult volunteer project leaders to complete projects in their area of interest to display at fairs or in state competitions,” Coleman said. “4-H teaches leadership and responsibility.”
Coleman said records of 4-H clubs in Madison County date back to the 1930s, with as many as five clubs operating in the county and as few as one.
“We currently have one club in the county, the Fredericktown Farmers 4-H Club,” Coleman said. “Our plans are to expand throughout Madison County and start new clubs in the Marquand area as well as additional clubs in the Fredericktown area.”
Coleman said he and Ward are currently working with Marquand-Zion and Fredericktown School Districts to supply resources, supplies and curriculum to begin offering 4-H programming and services in the schools.
“We have partnered with the Fredericktown School District through the 21st Century Learning Grant to begin offer programming and curriculum in the after-school program, if the grant is approved,” Coleman said. “The University of Missouri Extension will also be working with both schools to provide adult volunteer training and extension classes in nutrition, agriculture, business and community economic development.”
Coleman said he can also offer classes during the school day in personal finance, college, and career readiness, Show Me character, leadership and entrepreneurship.
“With more than 55,000 members, Missouri 4-H is an active, dynamic organization of young people who are learning, growing and preparing to be the leaders of today and tomorrow,” Coleman said. “They make a real difference in their community, country and world.”
Coleman said 4-H gives the youth of the area the opportunities to gain leadership, citizenship and life skills through fun and innovative hands-on activities. He said they are always committed to serving all youth of all abilities.
“They develop important life skills while socializing with others during projects and events,” Ward said. “These skills help to form who they will become. Leadership is a key benefit that I see in our members.”
Coleman said there is a segment of the youth population that is not involved in sports or other school-based opportunities.
“They have other interests, including woodworking, robotics, dance, cooking etc.,” Coleman said. “We have project areas for just about any interest a youth could want or need.”
Coleman said he wants to see more active clubs in the schools. He said he would like to provide SPIN Clubs or special interest clubs that meet four to six times with a specific project or program to complete.
“We can provide in-school presentations and projects for the youth of our area,” Coleman said. “We have over 100 different curriculum areas that can be utilized by teachers in the classrooms with everything from robotics to poultry to leadership and entrepreneurship programs. What I want people to know about 4-H is that it is not just agriculture. We have curriculum and programming for everyone.”
Groups and community members interested in 4-H services offered through the University of Missouri Extension can contact the office at 573-783-3303
“I would love to come speak to your group about the services offered by the University of Missouri Extension or 4-H,” Coleman said. “I can present programs or services, discuss scholarship opportunities available through the University of Missouri or 4-H, or discuss the programming available through the University of Missouri Extension.”
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org