4-H program coordinators make best betterPublished 10:43am Thursday, March 27, 2014
Guest Column by Lana Howe
Little do you know what you do as a child will help you to grow and become an adult.
Growing up my parents pushed me to be in several different activities through school as well as extracurricular outside of school. My mornings before school were spent rehearsing for music events and after school I spent my time dripping sweat on the floors of Albert Lea High School preparing for a game or tournament. Like many other parents out there who want the best for their children, my parents wanted the best for me. At the time I didn’t understand that music would help me to speak and practice would push me to strive for success and teach me to work well with others.
Though most of these activities were things I wanted to do, there was one that, at first, was not a choice for me. That was 4-H.
My mother was a 4-H’er growing up and to this day is involved with the youth development program. As a child I was scared to attend 4-H meetings because that would mean I had to talk in front of 20 or so people, and attending events was another thing that was hard for me because I didn’t know the kids from other clubs who attended different schools. I complained every Sunday afternoon before the meeting, begging my mother not to make me miss “Desperate Housewives.”
It wasn’t until high school when I began to realize the impact 4-H was leaving on me. The older I got, the more I became involved in the 4-H program, serving as club president for three years and county ambassador, as well as on Leaders’ Council. I attended summer camp and participated in various events throughout the year.
Now at the age of 21 I am thankful my mom continued to drag me to those meetings and sign my name on event sheets without asking my permission. I am thankful because it was 4-H that pushed me to reach for the stars and helped me through the many challenges that come with growing up. I continue to use the skills I have learned through 4-H each and every day now that I am grown up and in the so-called “real world.” In fact, I chose to make 4-H a career so that I can reach out to others and help them to have the same wonderful learning experience that I have had growing up through 4-H.
In August I graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with a bachelor’s degree in community health education and a minor in coaching. Before moving back to Albert Lea, I chose to follow one of my biggest dreams of visiting Alaska. I created my own internship experience by reaching out to an organization in Homer, Alaska, called Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships, or MAPP, of the Southern Kenai Peninsula. I worked with program coordinator Megan Murphy and various coalition members to improve community health through planning and implementing.
Since I have returned to the Lower 48, I have worked as an interim 4-H program coordinator in Martin County 4-H Extension Office. In January was asked to fill in for Freeborn and Steele County 4-H as the program coordinators in both counties are on maternity leaves. I am also the new facilitator for Freeborn County Family Service Collaborative. I continue to stay involved in various organizations and activities because my parents have taught me how important it is to be a part of the community and to surround myself with good people.
For some children they hope to become doctors, lawyers, school bus drivers, even professional basketball players; I would have never thought that I would one day become a 4-H program coordinator, but it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I have learned how to work with people of all ages. I have learned that you don’t have to be a farmer to learn about agriculture and livestock. I have learned to lead a group of people 20 years older and 20 times smarter than me. The one thing that has stuck with me through my beginning years as a 4-H member and involvement in the program is that, “You get out what you put in.”
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make the youth development program successful. I grew up through a 4-H Club starting out as a Cloverbud in third grade not realizing the many possibilities this program would lead me to. I also did not see the amount of work my program coordinators put into making it such a rewarding opportunity for me and my peers.
Amy Wadding and Megan Thorson were my program coordinators growing up, and now I have the opportunity to work with them and to continue to learn from them. Though this job can be challenging at times, when you see the difference you are making in eyes of kids, you forget about the many hours of planning it took.
The only thing that counts are the smiles on those faces and the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference. Working for Martin, Freeborn and Steele County 4-H has helped me to notice the effortless time many individuals put into the 4-H program to truly make the best better and to understand why we all do it. I plan to continue giving back to the 4-H program what it has given to me by sharing with individuals so that they, too, can make a difference and become whatever it is that they want to be when they grow up.
Albert Lea resident Lana Howe is the 4-H program coordinator for Freeborn, Martin and Steele counties.