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New Jefferson County 4-H leader is homegrown

February 19, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Shanna Dick may be the newest leader of Jefferson County's 4-H program, but that doesn't mean she does all the work.

"It's the volunteers' organization," said Dick, the new 4-H Youth and Development extension agent. "It takes those volunteers to make this program such a success."

Approximately 200 people offer their time to help with the county's 4-H program. They run 44 clubs - which range in membership from six to 30 - organize fund-raisers and work with 4-Hers on various projects.

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"They are the ones that run it," said Dick, 25, who started her job Jan. 16.

Dick is one of three county extension agents. Another handles agriculture and natural resources while the third heads the county's family and consumer sciences program.

Along with 44 community 4-H clubs, Jefferson County also has several specialty clubs, including a saddle club, a llama club - which also has members in Clarke County, Va. - and a teen leadership organization.

Dick's passion for 4-H is homegrown. She grew up in the 4-H program in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and was a member until she was 21. After college, Dick became involved in the international 4-H youth exchange program and lived in Poland.

She has bachelor's degrees in agricultural and environmental education and animal and veterinary science from West Virginia University and a master's degree in agricultural education from Texas A&M University.

Her goals for the program are plentiful.

Dick hopes to start an after-school program for elementary school-aged children to complement regular monthly meetings.

"Our children that aren't being reached are the ones that can't make (monthly) meetings like that," she said.

A "Saddles and Smiles" program can be started, in which special needs children learn to ride horses. Riding can help develop cognitive, sensory, emotional and social skills for those children, she said.

While some people might think 4-H is all about "cows and plows," in today's world the truth is that even 4-Hers often do not know about agriculture.

Dick said she hopes within three years to find enough small, local farmers to organize a "pizza farm." For the program, students would learn that the ingredients needed to make a pizza - dough, sauce and cheese - do not magically appear in a grocery store.

"You show children how food comes from the ground to your plate," she said.

Increasing the number of underrepresented groups in 4-H also is important, she said.

"The more diversity we have, the more we learn and the more we learn, the more we grow," she said.

Lastly, Dick said she hopes to start a program in which 4-Hers camp in different parts of the state to learn what other areas of Appalachia are like. The Panhandle is a lot different from other parts of the state, she said, pointing out that children here may never have seen coal, which is a source of livelihood in other areas.

Overall, she said, children who learn life skills early on will make better parents and leaders. Those in 4-H learn leadership skills and can discover passions earlier than others might, she said.

"We're here to provide a safe environment in which children can grow," she said.

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