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Posted: September 1, 2012 6:02 p.m.

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Lasting 4-H connections

One of my 4-H'ers said that she has attended school with the same people for 12 years.

At school, people decided who she was a long time ago, and she feels like she can't do much to change their image of her.

But at 4-H events, she can be anyone she wants to be - and boy does she shine.

I felt much the same in school, living for each 4-H event to be that person I wanted to be at school.

Fifteen years since graduation, and I'm sure glad I made those 4-H connections. I feel like I barely keep in touch with most people from high school, and I didn't bother attending my reunion five years ago.

But run into a 4-H friend I haven't seen in a while, and it's just like we were together at camp last week.

I'm so glad I get to attend 4-H alumni functions much more often than a blue moon comes around.
At 4-H global ambassador training a few weeks ago, the youth learned how fortunate we are in the U.S. to forge our paths, unlike people in some countries who are locked into a caste or role they didn't have any choice about.

Even Vince Dooley saw the light and became a bulldog, or bulldawg, after his student days at Auburn.

His daughter was a Georgia 4-H'er when one of my colleagues was agent in that county, and she invited him to speak at an extension agent function on Thursday.

He kept us laughing with stories about his former students and colleagues, and I marveled at the incredible connections he made over his incredible career.

One of my favorite stories was about a former football player inviting him along as he sought a special dream for the state: to bring the centennial Olympic games to Atlanta.

Billy Payne achieved that dream, and Dooley was with him when the games were awarded to Atlanta.
I have to admit, as engaging as Dooley was, I couldn't help but spend a moment thinking about some of my 4-H'ers and what dreams they might follow one day.

I left Athens and headed down to Jekyll Island 4-H Center for Master 4-H Weekend, though, and considered again what incredible connections I already have through 4-H.

Monday, we held our annual Newton County 4-H Banquet, to honor the 4-H'ers for last year's achievements.

We also honored dozens of organizations and individuals including the Newton County Board of Commissioners, Newton County Board of Education, Piedmont Cattlemen's Association, Main Street Covington and The Covington News for their incredible level of support this year.

Several dozen adult volunteers were on hand, without which our programs would not be possible.
Another highlight of the night for me was seeing how much support our annual silent auction has gained.

Thanks to generous donors including Hayes Furniture, Belk's, Carmike Cinema, and several personal families, we raised $800 in the auction, plus $150 from donations.

This will go a long way to supporting our students' work in projects and other competitions this year.

But more than anything, it reminded me again about those 4-H connections. Here in our community, joining 4-H gives you a connection to alumni and other community supporters. And now, this weekend, I'm at Master 4-H Weekend at Jekyll with more than 100 alumni and family from across the southeast.
During introductions, a local Master Club member from Conyers laid claim to the earliest 4-H Master award of anyone present for the event - 1939. We also have two members present who mastered in 2012. Seventy-three years of Master 4-H'ers, together celebrating our connections this weekend. I mastered in 1996 and 1997, but I stand in awe of the incredible connections, and amazing experience represented here this weekend. One of the basic tenets of 4-H is belonging, and I hope each of our new 4-H'ers this year realizes what a rich and wonderful group they now belong to both in Newton County and around the world. I hope they, too, will always feel like they've come home when they come to their next 4-H event.

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 or

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