By: Ashley Warren, Agricultural Communication & Marketing Major
A summer filled with fun and laughter; just what everyone wants. Last summer I had the amazing opportunity to be the 4-H summer intern in Kandiyohi County. After being involved in this organization for the past 13 years of my life, I really wanted to see what it took to make a 4-H a success. I had the amazing opportunity to go to local libraries on Tuesdays, the YMCA on Thursday, and ride along in The Growmobile Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Growmobile is a bus from the Salvation Army and United Way that stops at different parks in Willmar and to teach kids about various topics and to read book or complete projects with them. At these sites I got to make S’mores using solar power, make butter, grow gardens, and so much more.
On top of all of this, I also had the opportunity to run our county’s Livestock Quality Assurance and Ethics Training, assist with finding judges for the county fair, run the “Show of Showman” contest, organize the livestock auction, provide a schedule and activities for local day cares that attended the fair, and help anyone in the office who needed help with a project.
Coming into this internship, I thought it was only preparing for the county fair and expected to do tasks such as packing judge’s boxes, mailing out information to judges and members, etc. While I did do all of this, my experience involved much more. Each county is very different in how they do things and how much they do. Kandiyohi County focused a lot on after-school and summer programming. Every Thursday at the YMCA was “4-H Day,” and the kids knew that and were so excited to see what kind of fun project we were going to do next. This really helped get the word out about 4-H.
One of the biggest lessons I learned last summer was that not everything goes as planned. Because I spent a majority of my summer programming outside, the weather did not always cooperate. For example, making S’mores using solar power when it is cloudy for half of the day wasn’t a huge success. Or when your support staff has a sick child on the last county fair registration day, you stay in the office to answer phone calls and emails. Adjusting day by day was a huge thing for myself and the rest of the office. Communication and time management were other lessons that came into play for me this summer. Planning out my day and having morning meetings with the rest of the staff to let each other know what was going to get done when that day was something I needed to hold myself accountable for doing my part in the project.
There were so many highlights from this summer, but one of the biggest ones was by far seeing the smiling kids when they learned something new or when their boat held the most pennies in the contest. Because I spent one day of the week with all these kids, they would come back with stories the next time I was there to tell or show me what they did with their families at home, and to me that was the best feeling in the world. Leaving an impression on these kids was something I will cherish for the longest time. I also think that the people you work with are a huge part with not only enjoying the work place but also your success in that job. I had the opportunity to work with so many people outside my assigned office that I now have too many connections to count. And seeing those 4-H members succeed at the county and state fair by the end of the summer was a great feeling as well. My advice for anyone is to try and give back to an organization that has impacted you. I did and it was incredible!