Lisa Blunt Rochester cheers on 4-H volunteers at annual forum

On Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester welcomed attendees at the 2018 Delaware 4-H Volunteer Leader Forum, bringing with her an energetic and positive message to all that gathered in the Commons area of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Townsend Hall at the University of Delaware’s south campus in Newark.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester delivers a positive message to Delaware’s 4-H volunteer leaders.

Rochester’s message to her audience – stay positive. “One year and one month into this job I am still smiling.  Things are happening. Stay engaged, hopeful and committed. 4-H is integral part of that,” she said.

Rochester recounted while at a recent jobs tour she visited several  classrooms throughout the state at all grade levels. She found that students were eager to receive in hands-on experience.

“They wanted to think about jobs that are forward thinking and how does automation and technology impact the work that they are doing. They wanted to touch, feel and see, and 4-H allows them to do that,” Rochester said.

After reviewing the forum’s agenda and workshop offerings, Rochester was impressed, especially noting sessions on preventing food waste, substance abuse prevention, anti-bullying and mindfulness training.

“We need strong leaders now,” Rochester said. “Leadership and confidence.”

During her speech, Rochester unveiled a square pillow cover made years ago by her sister. The cover was an artistic rendering of Rochester as an eight-year old girl, standing assuredly with her hands on her hips and head held high.

Pointing to the image on the pillow, Rochester said, “There was an “I can do anything” spirit in this kid.”  She reflected that despite never running for anything before in her life—“not mayor, not dogcatcher,” that the spirit captured in the little girl on the pillow cover carried through to her adulthood, ultimately compelling her to run for office as Delaware’s Representative in Congress.

“My challenge, my charge to each and every one of you—the volunteers, the staff, the young leadership— is to make sure that every child that steps into this program walks out with this kind of confident, sassy, ‘I can do everything – anything’ and that they can step up like me and become first woman to represent the state of Delaware in Congress after 230 years, and the first person of color after 230 years,” Rochester said.

Rochester confessed she thrives on energy and led the room in several rousing “we can do anything” chants.

“We can do anything. You can do anything. So maybe that is the ‘pump you up’— maybe that is thing we can say together as 4-H, as Delaware, as a country, as individuals, we can do anything.  Stay pumped. We need this energy!“ Rochester exclaimed before sending her audience off to attend their workshops.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester poses with Delaware 4-H teenofficers at the 2018 leader forum. L-R: Hanna O’Hara, Patrick Trunfio, Andrew Shaffer, Doug Crouse (4-H program leader) Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Garrett Geidel, Shawn Mitchell. Kneeling: Jenna Anger and Leslie Webb.

The annual forum provides an opportunity for 4-H leaders and staff to present or attend professional development sessions. In addition to previous sessions mentioned, workshops on team building, leadership, video production, creating safe environments,    4-H project work, essential 4-H elements, college readiness, talking health with health care providers, volunteer recruitment, recipes for special diets, and tours of CANR’s dairy barn and UDairy Creamery were offered during the day-long event.

“Our 2018 Delaware 4-H State Leader Forum turned out to be a terrific day of learning and sharing,” said Ernie Lopez, UD extension specialist.  “The selfless volunteer work by Delaware 4-H leaders continues to make our program the shining star that it is among youth development programs in our state!  From meaningful training sessions to important recognition of volunteer service, the forum proved to be what it always is:  a highlight of the year on the Delaware 4-H calendar.”

An Opportunity to Salute Excellence

Delaware Salute to Excellence Winners 2018 by county. L-R
Kent County: Dana Sharpe, Kristin Cook (4-H Agent) and Diane O’Hara; Sussex County: Dana Probert, Jill Jackson (4-H Agent), Jodie Gravenor; New Castle County: Betsy Morris (4-H Agent) Wally Gott, Doug Crouse (4-H Program Leader) and Monique Merritt.

The forum provides a venue to  recognize volunteer leaders for the Salute to Excellence Award.  Each county recognizes a Volunteer of the Year  for excellence service under 10 years, and a Lifetime Volunteer recognition for service 10 years or more. County winners were:

New Castle County: Volunteer of the Year: Monique Merritt; Lifetime Volunteer: Wally Gott

Kent County: Volunteer of the Year: Diane O’Hara; Lifetime Volunteer: Dana Sharpe

Sussex County: Volunteer of the Year: Dana Probert; Lifetime Volunteer: Jodie Gravenor

From this selection of volunteer excellence, Dana Probert and Dana Sharpe were selected to represent Delaware for consideration in the regional and national 4-H Salute to Excellence Awards.

Delaware Salute to Excellence Winners: L to R: Doug Crouse, 4-H Program Leader; Dana Sharpe, Lifetime Volunteer Award from Kent County; Dana Probert, Volunteer of the Year from Sussex County; Ernie Lopez, 4-H Extension Specialist

Probert is the leader of the Sunset Branch 4-H Club which she started more than six years ago.  She is a certified Shooting Sports instructor and the club has grown to more than 40 members and 12 volunteer leaders.  Probert was recognized for her efforts to ensure that her club members have ample opportunity to take part in all 4-H curriculum and activities.

Sharpe’s involvement in Delaware 4-H spans five decades.  At age nine, Dana became a member of the Fox Hall 4-H Club.  When it came time for her own children to be involved in 4-H, Sharpe became a leader of the Westville 4-H Club and in 2012, Sharpe started a new club called the Legacy Club, when her grandchildren became of 4-H age.  The Legacy Club currently has 35 members and seven volunteers.  Sharpe was honored for her commitment to 4-H youth and continues to lead activities such as rocket building, woodworking and archery.

To become a Delaware 4-H leader, adults go through an extensive application process which includes a criminal background check. In addition to training opportunities at the annual forum, 4-H volunteers receive curriculum training and support at the county level, and many participate in regional and national 4-H leader forums and 4-H sponsored events.

For additional photos please visit the Flickr photo gallery of the 2018 Delaware 4-H Forum

Article and photos by Michele Walfred