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Washington County 4-H educator says program offers 'something for everyone'

June 02, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Jamie Kenton is 4-H Youth Development educator for the Washington County Extension office.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

When Jamie Kenton saw the job description for Extension educator, 4-H Youth Development for the Washington County Extension office, she thought her background was a perfect fit.

“It seemed like a nice fit to use all my skills,” Kenton said of the job she started in January 2012.

Now, almost a year later, she said her experience working at a 4-H camp in Iowa for three summers, at a day care center and as a middle school teacher prepared her well.

“I have to say I love it — the variety of people, the variety of locations. I’m working with both youth and adults. I’ve met such wonderful people in this county. The nonformal educational setting makes for a wonderful experience,” Kenton said.

Kenton, 41, grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa. She is the fifth of six children and since graduating from Marshalltown High School in 1990, has earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree.

Her first degree, from University of Iowa, was in leisure studies. While a student there, she worked for three summers at the Iowa 4-H Education and Natural Resources Center in Madrid, Iowa, which included a required internship.

Kenton loved the camp setting and would have loved to work there permanently, but it “didn’t pan out that way,”  she said. Instead, she worked at a day care center and within three years, had moved up to director of after-school programs.

“That combined with the camp experience, I realized teaching was the area for me,” Kenton said.

She headed to Iowa State University and because she was able to transfer some credits from her previous degree, earned a teaching degree in English/language arts and German, with a minor in educational computing in two years in 2000.

Kenton admits science was one of the areas she really loved, but it would have taken her longer to finish her degree with that as an emphasis.

She taught for a Catholic school in Des Moines, Iowa, for a year, then she and her now former husband moved to Maryland when he was offered a position at Towson University.

Kenton earned a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on science from Towson University during her nine years of teaching middle school health, science and computers at Pikesville Middle School in Baltimore County.

She moved to Frederick, Md., where she still lives. Kenton commuted to Pikesville for a year, but didn’t like the drive and applied to Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools.

She worked as a substitute teacher until she got the Washington County Extension job.

Kenton was not involved with 4-H growing up, but did participate in Girl Scouts. She is hoping her 7-year-old daughter will choose to be involved in 4-H as she gets older.

As one of about 60 4-H educators in Maryland, Kenton runs the program for the county, with the help of a program assistant. In addition, she does community outreach, including to schools, and helps with the camping program.

Her position involves collaboration with many local organizations, and one of her goals is to broaden understanding of the program.

“There’s something for everyone,” Kenton said.

Most 4-H groups are open to boys and girls and are focused around an area of interest, such as dairy, rabbits, robotics, photography and sewing. Groups generally have monthly meetings and are led by volunteers.

“We have so many things to offer,” Kenton said.

For more information about Washington County Extension programs, go to www.extension.umd.edu./washington-county or call 301-791-1404.

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