Sara Lewis has a passion for everything 4-H, and she wants to share it with Fulton County.
Last week, Lewis was named the new 4-H Educator for the county’s branch of the OSU Extension. She brings experience to the position, both as 4-H youth participant for a decade in Monroe County, Mich., and as a coordinator through the Michigan State University program.
“4-H has been my background, my passion,” she said. “I see value in the 4-H program, and I’m pleased with the pride and commitment that Ohio State University has to 4-H and Fulton County.”
The 32-year-old Sylvania resident will oversee youth programming and volunteer management, and partner with the Fulton County Junior Fair as part of her duties. A Monroe County, Mich., native, Lewis earned a degree in social sciences at Michigan State University in 2012 and an MBA from Spring Arbor University in 2018. She worked previously as the 4-H program coordinator for the MSU Extension.
She said her new job with the Fulton County OSU branch will be a great experience and “a new challenge to a different group of youth and volunteers.”
Her journey with 4-H began as a new third grade student in Michigan’s Whiteford Agricultural Schools district. Lewis knew nothing about the organization, but became hooked after being invited to a meeting of the Whiteford Workers 4-H Club.
“And then, the rest is history,” she said. “It was an opportunity for me to meet new people, to try new things, to find my interests and talents.”
Through her involvement over the next decade Lewis involved herself in poultry, communication, and craft projects, won a state leadership award, and became Monroe County 4-H Queen in 2007.
With a Fulton County 4-H membership of about 860 youth, and a volunteer corps of about 140, she plans to immerse herself in building relationships with local 4-H boards and councils and getting involved with 4-H Camp Palmer. For now, the camp plans to move forward with just day activities during the pandemic.
“Hopefully, we can (create a) back-to-normal structure,” Lewis said. “We’ll still try to maintain the fun of themes and activities and all of the camp experience as much as possible.”
She said she wants to establish a good rapport with 4-H members of all ages. “I find myself being very intentional about talking with the youth and not to them, trying to connect with them on what they’re doing in school, what are their interests, getting the feedback from them so I know what they need from me.”
Eric Richer, Fulton County OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator and assistant professor, said it’s clear Lewis “is passionate about helping youth develop into contributing community members and individuals. She has come to us with valuable experience…I am truly excited for how she will contribute to 4-H Camp, 4-H project judging, and the Junior Fair program.”
Despite the technological wonders that dominate kids’ attention these days, Lewis said 4-H is holding its own. She said the organization is progressing with the times by dipping into areas such as coding and robotics.
“We’re offering science and technology-type project areas and other opportunities for leadership that are all great resume-builders,” she said. “That is definitely helping to carry the 4-H program with all of the other competition that youth have to choose from. It’s been able to maintain itself with some fluctuation, with the flexibility of 4-H programming, being able to meet the ever-changing needs of the youth and family structures.”
But while Lewis thinks it’s important for 4-H to stay relatable, “we still have that traditional feel, and I believe that’s where Fulton County is. I would love to be able to maintain that tradition while also using some different program areas to recruit new members.”
Even as technology grabs the majority of the current generation’s attention, Lewis thinks the 4-H program still holds an important place in their lives.
“I truly believe that 4-H is still very relevant, because it’s building the necessary life skills that will always be carried with youth as they move into adulthood,” she said. “It’s teaching them about home life and financial education – all things that youth will need as they move to live on their own. 4-H is more than just participation at the fair, but rather a year-round experience.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.