Cameron Frazier and Austin Guoli, both of Parke County, are examples of young people who, while not from farm backgrounds, embrace the life skills of leadership and communication offered through FFA and 4-H. As a result, they intend to follow agricultural pursuits in their careers.
Frazier’s loaded personal schedule rivals those of many adult professionals. He will be a senior at Riverton-Parke High School and is in his fifth year with FFA, formerly called Future Farmers of America. Frazier is the chapter president, District 7 Sentinel (the officer who coordinates awards presentations and encourages new members), directs his chapter’s parliamentary procedures, and judges forestry and soils CD (career development) projects.
He is completing his ninth year in 4-H and participated in the program’s State Fair Leadership conference at the 2011 Indiana State Fair. This year, he is working in the FFA Pavilion at the state fair.
“I’ve learned so much from both organizations and each has their own niche of what they offer,” said Frazier. “In 4-H, I show dogs, do forestry and photography projects, and participate in Junior Leaders, which is a great leadership training opportunity.”
He says FFA has fine-tuned his leadership expertise and provided public speaking training. “‘Roberts Rules of Order’ used in practicing parliamentary procedure prepares us to lead meetings in business settings,” Frazier said from the state fairgrounds. “Working in the Country Market in the FFA Pavilion is the first time I’ve worked with the public, and I’ve learned how to talk to people and share with them what FFA does and how we support Indiana-grown products. You want to be genuine with the public, something that we learned in our ‘Business 101’ skills training to prepare us for working in the market,” he said.
Frazier’s state fair commitment also involves raising money as he and fellow FFA-ers encourage passers-by to purchase $5 tickets for the chance to win a Chevrolet pickup truck. The money raised is considered donations to the state FFA program.
The zest Frazier has for his FFA duties is translating into immediate and long-term goals.
“I’m still deciding this year if I want to run for state FFA office,” he said. “I know if I were to run and receive a state officer position, I would have to put college on hold for a year. I plan to attend Purdue in ag education to be a teacher, or in wildlife biology to be a conservation officer.
“But I love that even though I’m not a farm kid — I’m from Rosedale — I want to learn what agriculture does for our state and country. Agriculture is not just farming; it’s so much more. I want to tell people that, and for that reason, I want to be a state FFA officer.”
Guoli quickly credits his close relationship with his paternal grandfather and his father as the key to his patience and tenacity in learning how to plan and complete 4-H projects.
“Woodworking was my first project, and I did it all 10 years I was in 4-H,” said Guoli of Mecca. “I also did models, photography and arts and crafts, but it was woodworking that my dad and grandpa were really good at and did with me.”
Guoli, who will be a junior at Purdue, started out small with his woodworking talents, creating a bird feeder and a bench. He worked up to projects that included a coffee table, a curio cabinet, a bookshelf and a jewelry box for his girlfriend, whom he met through 4-H.
“But 4-H is not just about doing projects,” Guoli said. “It’s about learning life skills, patience and time management. Woodworking got me out of my shell. If I hadn’t done 4-H, I don’t know what I would have done with my time and energy.”
Guoli appreciates that 4-H is open to any child: mini 4-H for first- and second-graders; kids in third grade through high school; and the collegiate level for young adults.
As woodworking crew leader in the Indiana State Fair’s 4-H exhibit hall, Guoli’s responsibilities are varied and numerous. Among his duties are setting up the section and overseeing the floor’s activities, supervising 4-Hers helping with the exhibit, and making sure fair visitors take advantage of woodworking take-home crafts.
Guoli says attending State Fair Leadership Conference in 2010 changed his life. Although attending 4-H Roundup — a three-day leadership and interactive event for seventh- and eighth-graders at Purdue — was his first time to visit a college campus, Guoli then made it his goal to attend Purdue as a student.
Guoli’s respect for his youth leader, Jeff Pell, led him to apply for a summer youth internship, which he was awarded. His commitment to youth has taken him from serving as the recreation director at the 4-H camp at Shakamak State Park in June to working as one of four interns in the Vigo County Extension office.
“My main job with the Extension office was helping with the mini 4-H campers day camp and running the ‘Minute to Win It’ games during the county fair. I loved helping with the mini [campers], showing them the fair, the Master’s Gardeners Giving Garden, and helping them create crafts to take home.
“I loved working in the Extension office because it gave me the opportunity to see the other side of the fair, what makes it work,” he said. “It’s not as easy as it looks, but the staff and volunteers get it done and engage the public.”
What Guoli has learned about communication skills and conflict resolution in 4-H and in the workplace translates well into his college major, agriculture communications. His extra curricular activities at Purdue — including playing trumpet in Purdue’s marching band and serving as the service director for the campus Collegiate 4-H chapter — further cinched Guoli’s career aspiration.
“Everyone asks me, ‘What is ag communications? Does that mean you talk to plants and animals?’” he says with a laugh. “I wasn’t raised on a farm, but I take ag classes for an ag background. What I learn helps me as I work with people, especially youth, with the end result being an Extension educator.”
Susan Hayhurst is a freelance writer from Terre Haute and is a member of the Indiana State Fair Commission.
The Indiana State Fair runs through Aug. 19 at the state fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis. For more information, visit www.in.gov/statefair.
Parke County youths embrace leadership roles in FFA, 4-H
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