By Karol Osborne, LSU AgCenter
WOODWORTH, La. — Fast-paced workshops, idea sharing and awards recognition brought 4-H volunteers across the state together for the Louisiana 4-H Volunteer Leaders Association’s annual meeting held Sept. 8-9 in Woodworth.
“Volunteers are the heart of the Louisiana 4-H program and represent one of our greatest resources,” said Veronica Del Bianco, LSU AgCenter volunteer and leadership development specialist.
Research shows volunteers are a key to positive youth development because of their longtime mentorship of 4-H youth, she said.
The Louisiana 4-H program currently supports more than 286,000 youth members in kindergarten to 12th grade and nearly 9,000 youth and adult volunteers.
“Having the opportunity to be a 4-H volunteer leader has influenced who I am, because it has opened so many windows for personal growth and development that I would have never been exposed to otherwise,” Ann Keene said at an awards luncheon on Sept. 9. Keene is a veteran Louisiana 4-H volunteer and National 4-H Hall of Fame member.
Eight volunteers and one AgCenter agent were recognized for achievement and received awards.
Volunteers who received awards sponsored by the Louisiana 4-H Volunteer Leaders Association are Emily Amos, Franklin Parish, Emerging Leader Award; Jennifer Gauthier, Avoyelles Parish, Excellence in Service-Learning Award; Diane Walters, Franklin Parish, 4-H Spirit Award; Lane Romero, Iberia Parish, Program Pioneer Award; and Sarah Jones, Sabine Parish, Golden Clover for Outstanding Club Work. Amy Long-Pierre, a 4-H agent in St. Tammany Parish, received the association’s 4-H Agent of the Year Award.
Three volunteers were recognized for reaching Louisiana 4-H Master Volunteer Achievement in Continuing Education (ACE) levels and received awards sponsored by LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development. They are Jaye Guerin, West Baton Rouge Parish, gold level; Debra Thrower, Lafayette Parish, silver level; and Sara Jones, Sabine Parish, bronze level.
The 4-H Master Volunteer program offers four levels of volunteer development, including bronze, silver, gold and emerald, to assist volunteers through quality training and learning experiences, conducting service activities and developing a Master Volunteer ACE portfolio.
Matt Miller, former 4-H Executive Board president and a current Winnfield City Council member, told members how important his experiences as a 4-H member were in preparing him for leadership.
“You are making a difference,” Miller said. “Please don’t forget that you are.”
The conference serves as an opportunity for volunteers to connect and strengthen networks while learning about new programs, curriculum and grants available to help them better serve the youth in their communities, Del Bianco said.
Teen members of two state 4-H leadership boards — Healthy Living and Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) — led several hands-on activities, from testing potato chips and building race cars to creating mock-tornadoes and exploring cloning.
Association members also presented workshops featuring archery, fishing and camping skills as well as programs on incorporating technology to strengthen youth and adult partnerships.
“In sharing their passion for service to youth, volunteers participating in the conference are re-energized to continue the important work they do,” Del Bianco said.
New officers elected to serve the association include: Stephenie Gray, Claiborne Parish, president; Dawn Culbreath, Tangipahoa Parish, president-elect; Fran Castille, Tangipahoa Parish, past president; Shetwan Robenson, Bossier Parish, vice president; Susan Warner, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, secretary; Scott Lee, Sabine Parish, treasurer; Debra Thrower, Lafayette Parish, parliamentarian; and Ruby Miller, Cameron Parish, historian and reporter.
The LSU AgCenter and Louisiana 4-H Volunteer Leadership Association hosted the conference.
The Louisiana 4-H Volunteer Leaders Association supports 4-H adult volunteers through grants and scholarships, trainings, mentorship programs and awards.