At its March 17 meeting, the Kentland Rotary Club heard a presentation from Danielle Sands, County Extension Director and 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator, about ongoing 4-H and youth activities in Newton County, her primary area of responsibility.  Doug Morgan introduced Danielle, reminding members of Danielle’s presentation several years ago on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) while employed in the Newton County Surveyor’s Office.  She developed an interest in this area as a result in working for the office during the summer following her junior year at South Newton High School.  Following graduation, Danielle attended Tri-State University (now Trine University) in Angola, earning undergraduate degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology.  She then became GIS Technician in the Surveyor’s Office and later GIS Director for the county.  During this period, she also worked toward and completed a Master of Public Administration degree from Indiana State University, with emphasis on Human Resource Management.  As a result of Sue Frischie’s retirement and her own interest in 4-H, having been a long-time participant, Danielle sought and was hired as Extension Educator. 

Danielle stated that 4-H participation usually begins in the second grade and continues until middle school when other activities may compete with 4-H, although many youth complete 10 years of participation.  There are currently 408 young people participating in 4-H.  Enrollment takes place through pool parties and activity nights at area high schools, where families and kids can meet people from all 4-H clubs, see different projects, and learn about the many activities that occur in 4-H. 

Purdue Extension emphasizes school-based programming and as a result many programs are conducted throughout the year by the Educators. One program in particular, called “Kids in the Kitchen,” began years ago to help third graders read recipes, use kitchen tools, and cook various foods.  There were eighteen Lake Village participants in 2013, attending four classes during which breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes were followed.  Danielle wants to continue to promote this program and further develop interest in gardening, which can provide useful knowledge and a source of food for their family. 

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum teaches interactive, experimental learning, which Purdue Extension encourages through National Youth Science Day.  “Maps and Apps” is a program Danielle excels at, due to her previous positions, and she attempts to turn youth into geospatial thinkers as they design and map physical objects and solve community problems.

4-H Junior Leaders are a group of 7-12th graders who meet monthly  to tackle various projects and community service efforts, mentor first-year 4-Hers, help families and veterans, and strive to “make the best better.”

Danielle recently returned from attending the “Indiana 4-H Youth Development Academy” in Indianapolis which focused on creating a constructive, learning environment and critical thinking skills for kids of all ages as well as providing tools for the adults and volunteers who work with the youth.  She is looking forward to applying these concepts locally. 

Recent local Purdue Extension events include “Color Me Green” 5k walk/run at the fairgrounds (which raised nearly $1,000), “Clover to Clover” (4-H overview for first-year members), Jr. Leaders, and livestock workshops. Danielle also talked about the upcoming “engaging volunteers” activities to recognize the 101 volunteer leaders who head the eight 4-H clubs and other project and activity groups throughout Purdue Extension programming. 

She also provided an overview of the areas covered by her colleagues in the Newton County Extension Office, such as nutrition education by FNP Assistant Nancy Jo Prue, healthy people/healthy communities programs by HHS Educator Deb Arseneau, and agriculture programs by ANR Educator Andrew Martin.

The Rotary Club enjoyed Danielle’s presentation and enthusiasm and thanked her for her leadership and for making a difference in Newton County.  Danielle was hosted by Doug Morgan.   In other Rotary news Jim Schoen president elect attended President Elect Training at Kalamazoo MI last weekend.