We have all endured many changes over the last 18 months. It has challenged us in ways we never imagined.

Those challenges may have offered us opportunities to grow and to see things from a different perspective. For me, it has presented the opportunity to take my career path in another direction and it is with mixed emotions that I leave my tenure as the Douglas County 4-H faculty.

I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned over the last 13 years about our amazing Douglas County 4-H program.

I have learned Douglas County has some amazing 4-H leaders. We have leaders who have been with the program for over 50 years! Fifty plus years — that is commitment. New leaders join because they want to provide youth the opportunity to find their spark.

I have learned that our volunteers have a passion for giving of themselves and their time. Leaders not only provide project learning experience and knowledge but encourage youth that frustration and/or failure isn’t something to be upset about but part of the learning experience.

Our program would not exist if it were not for our dedicated leaders.

I have learned that parents want a quality learning experience for their children and that 4-H provides hands-on learning for almost anything a child may be interested in.

I have learned that our 4-H Teen Leadership team has some of the most civic-minded youth I have ever met. According to youth.gov, when youth volunteer in their community they are more likely to feel connected to their community, do better in school, 19% more likely to graduate from college, and less prone to be involved with risky behavior. Two-thirds of adults who volunteer began volunteering as a youth.

I have learned that you can plan as much as possible but you best have the flexibility to pivot at a moment’s notice. A week of rain during resident camp or a pandemic both require a change of plan. When confronted with challenges we work together to make it happen, it just looks a little different from the norm.

I have learned to wear a pair of old running shoes during fair, that way I can toss them afterwards. You just can’t get a week of fair smells of your shoes.

I have learned that we have overwhelming community support. Douglas County residents and businesses are strong supporters of the 4-H program. They provide both dollars and time to enhance the program on many levels. We are truly thankful.

I have learned to ask. Ask people to help, to become leaders, to teach a class at camp, to be a chaperone. The worse that can happen is they say no, but more than likely you will end up with more yesses than nos.

I have learned to listen to both sides of a story. No matter how flat the pancake there are always two sides.

I have learned that our 4-H/Extension staff are the best. Everyone uses their skills and abilities to build the program and serve our county.

I have built some lifelong friendships and memories that I will cherish. Thank you Douglas County for having me as your 4-H Educator these past 13 years.

Teresa Middleton is the 4-H Educator at OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Teresa can be reached by email teresa.middleton@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-672-4461.

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