New 4-H coordinator-educator for western Nebraska
Once upon a time, 4-H meant corn clubs for boys and canning clubs for girls. But in its 110 years, the youth organization has evolved with the needs of young people and families.
Beside traditional project areas like livestock, crops and sewing, today’s 4-H has made room for science, engineering and technology, arts, communication and small animals.
But 4-H still places the focus on developing young people and helping them develop skills to be capable, competent, caring citizens in adulthood, via interaction with adults and project opportunities, according to the new 4-H coordinator for the western part of Nebraska.
Annette Haas started Feb. 6 with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as Panhandle Extension District 4-H coordinator and extension educator for 4-H youth development. She is based at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff.
As educator she will work with Scotts Bluff and Morrill counties. As district coordinator she will support other youth educators and 4-H assistants throughout Panhandle District, coordinate programming initiatives and priorities of Nebraska 4-H, and be a liaison between local educators and the state 4-H program.
The Panhandle Extension District includes 17 counties in western and north-central Nebraska, from Kimball north to Harrison, east to Valentine, and south through Thedford to Chappell.
Haas comes to her position with extensive 4-H experience in Wisconsin. For the past two years she had 4-H liaison responsibilities in the state’s Northern District. For 13 years she had served as 4-H youth development educator in a county in the northwest part of the state.
“So I’m doing somewhat the same type of work here.”
4-H projects have long been the avenue toward developing life skills in young people. But the types of projects vary with the era or the region. Haas noted that in Wisconsin, dairy livestock is a very large project.
“And I expect in Nebraska that beef cattle will be project that most people focus on. Over time, 4-H has evolved from livestock and farm focused to other project areas such as science, engineering and tech, arts, communication, and small animals.”
4-H is also for kids in urban areas, kids who participate through after-school programs, and are not part of a traditional club. So outreach methods certainly have evolved over time too.
About one-third of Nebraska youths participate in 4-H, very high compared to other states.
Haas said her priorities will include providing district-level leadership to ensure that priorities of Nebraska 4-H are delivered in coordinated fashion in Panhandle district, specifically in the areas of career development, ag literacy, 4-H science, life skill development and healthy living.
In Scotts Bluff and Morrill counties, she will work with 4-H assistants Jana Schwartz and Peggy Backer to ensure that the programs are well-rounded and meet the needs of all young people, whether on farms or ranches, in cities, or underserved populations.
“Within all that, a foundational piece is ensuring that the 4-H program stays true to the principles of positive youth development, where they are engaged with responsible adults that help them develop skills for life.”
Haas said she has a personal interest in career development and college readiness. An important component of this is helping youth explore science-related careers and gain knowledge of the science content of their 4-H projects. But this will look beyond projects that are obviously science to projects such as knitting or fiber arts.
“There’s not a lot of emphasis on fiber arts in the program here, but there are tremendous resources in this area to help support these projects. So since that’s a special interest of mine, I’ll help provide leadership here,” she said.
Some people might not see connection between fiber arts and science. But Haas said there’s a design element in shaping of garments, as well as the means by which fibers become yarn: what characteristics make fiber good yarn? What are threats to fiber production, such as insects?
Haas can be reached by phone at 632-1483 or by email at email@example.com.
– University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center