There was a S.U.R.G.E. of energy on the Oklahoma State University campus recently as a group of dedicated 4-H parents and volunteers gathered for the annual 4-H Parent/Volunteer Conference.

Volunteers from all three districts came together to share ideas, network with fellow volunteers, learn new things to share in their home counties and recognize the achievements of members of the organization.

The theme for this year’s meeting was S.U.R.G.E., which stands for strengthen, unite, recruit, grow and empower, which all are important aspects of being a volunteer. The conference objective was to provide a S.U.R.G.E. of energy and forward movement of incorporating science, technology, engineering, art and math in 4-H project work.

Dee Allen, Pittsburg County, who served the last year as president-elect, and now has stepped into the role of president of the board, said it is important for the group to meet yearly so the volunteers can become more educated and better equipped with materials and knowledge to educate club members.

“During this conference, our volunteers gained hands-on knowledge and the ability to help develop leadership, citizenship and life skills in our youth, who are the leaders of the future,” Allen said.

As president, Allen said she hopes to bring the board together as a whole, rather than three separate districts, because they are a team. She wants to see the board work together for the betterment of the kids, which she believes will happen when board members participate in conferences and activities in all three districts.

“I also want to get the board together at a retreat so we can brainstorm for the future of Oklahoma 4-H and what we can do to enhance the program,” she said. “In addition, we have both new and seasoned members of the board and I hope to see us come together with full respect and attention to each other and the positions we have committed to as board members.”

Some of the workshop topics during the conference included starting a mechanical science club, design and construction, music, geocaching, civic engagement, and wind turbine design, just to name a few.

Karla Knoepfli, associate OSU Cooperative Extension specialist, volunteer development in the State 4-H Office, said parents and volunteers attending this conference went home better equipped to connect S.T.E.A.M. to 4-H projects, develop Youth-Adult Partnerships, ready to recruit volunteers to lead S.T.E.A.M. based project groups and were more comfortable in facilitating experiential learning through project work and at club meetings.

“All 4-H projects have some science base - social, language, physical, life, biological, math, engineering and so on. We wanted parents and volunteers to begin to see the subtler science connections not necessarily associated with having computers, robots and other more advanced technologies,” Knoepfli said. “Workshops were selected to provide a very diverse set of S.T.E.A.M. experiences which would increase the individual’s comfort with facilitating science connections though hands-on activities.”

A special recognition luncheon took place during the conference, at which time the individuals who had been named County Volunteer of the Year and County Lifetime Volunteer of the Year were recognized. Volunteer of the Year is a person with less than 10 years of service to the organization, and Lifetime Volunteer of the Year has dedicated more than 10 years of service.

Billy Bullard, Pittsburg County 4-H Shooting Sports was recognized as the Pittsburg County Volunteer of the Year. He has been an active volunteer for 6 years. Judy Needham, Quinton 4-H was recognized as the Pittsburg County Lifetime Volunteer Award winner. She has been a 4-H volunteer for 41 years.

Recognized as District Volunteer of the Year were Billy Bullard, Pittsburg County, Southeast District; Jennifer Geary, Tulsa County, Northeast District; and Earla Haggard, Garfield County, West District. Haggard also was named the Oklahoma 4-H Volunteer of the Year.

Recognized as District Lifetime Volunteer of the Year were Rick Buellesfeld, Kay County, Northeast District; Judy Needham, Pittsburg County, Southeast District; and Debra Rankin, Woods County, West District. Buellesfeld was named the Oklahoma 4-H Lifetime Volunteer of the Year.

In addition to the educational workshops and recognizing the achievements of the volunteers, the group also recognized the incoming 2019-2020 board members. Serving in leadership roles this next year will be Dee Allen, president; Barbara Pemberton, president-elect; Glynadee Edwards, treasurer; Gary Loeffelholz, Lilly Stubbs and Leah Haxton, Southeast District representatives; Shelly Messall, Missy Quintero and Robin Lamb, West District representatives; and Kassandra Kiser, Northeast District representative. The group will elect a secretary at a later date.

4‑H’s reach and depth is unmatched. Through its community of 100 public universities, 4‑H reaches kids in every corner of America – from urban neighborhoods to suburban schoolyards to rural farming communities. The network of 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 4‑H professionals provides caring and supportive mentoring to all 6 million 4‑H’ers, helping them grow into true leaders today and in life.

“Plans are underway for next year’s conference and our theme will be American’s Most Wanted: Oklahoma 4-H Volunteers. We hope it will be bigger and better. I want every 4-H member, district volunteer and board members to know they can approach me with any new ideas or current issues, and I will do my best to give it my utmost, unbiased attention,” Allen said.

For more information about this and other 4-H events and activities please give us a call at the office at 423-4120 or email me at greg.owen@okstate.edu.