Youth agent Finley proving perfect match for 4-H duties

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service has appointed anew director to its 4-H desk, and that appointment seems a perfectmatch for the county’s 159 4-H Club high school students.

Franklin County’s Paige Finley, who has worked with the LincolnCounty extension service for one year in the Expanded Food andNutrition Education Program, is currently settling into her newpost as the 4-H youth agent. She said the job is a perfect matchfor her, as it crosses her two lifelong passions: education andagriculture.

“I love to learn, so I can teach,” said Finley, who is currentlypursuing a master’s degree. “I’ve been part of 4-H since I was 8years old, and I like teaching children.”

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Finley is hard at work, putting her passion to practice. Shealready has a Bachelor of Education from Alcorn State University,and is currently earning a Master of Work Force EducationalLeadership from the same institution. In the summer of 2009, shewill be off to Starkville for a Doctorate of Community CollegeLeadership from Mississippi State University.

She already has teaching experience, as her duties at theextension service’s EFNEP agent included elementary school visitsto teach children in kindergarten through third grade aboutnutrition.

As for the agriculture side of Finely, she doesn’t have to workat it.

“I’m just a country girl,” she said. “I was born and raised on a300-acre farm in Franklin County – any kind of farm animal you canname, we had it. I didn’t really have a choice – not when you’relooking at a grandfather who has one daughter and onegranddaughter. But I love it. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Finley was active in 4-H as she progressed through the FranklinCounty School System, participating in almost every 4-H exerciseavailable – from livestock shows to community service. She is nostranger to having dirt under her fingernails, and that experiencewill come in handy in an area so dependent upon agriculture.

“We’re in a small community, and the most important industrieswe have here are the dairy, livestock and forestry industries,”Finley said. “We want those different types of industries tocontinue, and 4-H takes steps in that direction. We have manydifferent types of curriculum to help youth understand how tobudget and manage several agricultural industries. These studentsare our future.”

Finley will be working with county and city school systems toimplement those curricula for grades four through 12 for the startof the 2008/2009 school year. Once in place, the programs will filla seven-month void, as there has been no 4-H youth agent to carryon the coordination of 4-H events during the previous schoolyear.

“We will be picking back up next year,” Finley said. “It’sactually quick to get this position filled in seven months, and ourclubs are ready to go – we’re looking good. Our community and our94 volunteers love their 4-H, and the kids love to be a part ofit.”

Finley said she is ready to dive head-long into her educationalduties. She has been there, and she knows how to execute. Her 4-Hsessions will not be boring, book-reading affairs.

“You have to keep the students motivated, you have to be activewith them,” she said. “You have to go to their level – what makesit fun for them? I’ll be using visuals and hands-on activities toshow the students how to do something.”

Finley pointed out that involvement in 4-H would benefit allstudents, not just those who are destined to take over the familyfarm. The program can prepare its participants for college,business and life in general.

“Students learn leadership skills, organization, communication,community service and social skills,” she said. “And 4-H isn’t allabout livestock – we employ a good deal of technology. Studentswill also learn how to do power point presentations that they’llhave to do in college.”

Finley said she is only facing one challenge at her new desk inthe extension service – paperwork. The business end of 4-H sticksis in her blood, but filling out the forms is not.

“I’ve been around horses and cows all my life, but I’m having tolearn the procedures – the deadlines and paperwork of the 4-Hposition,” she said. “I’m totally familiar with all the events, I’mjust trying to get get familiar with the rules and regulations. Butit’s easy to get help from my volunteers, co-workers andMississippi State University – if I don’t understand something, Ican just pick up that phone.”