4-H honors Curry County leader in youth development

March 28, 2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. - 4-H, the youth development program run by Oregon State University Extension Service, honored nine Oregonians for their work in helping Oregon's young people develop skills for life.

These nine people were inducted into the Oregon 4-H Hall of Fame, recognizing their volunteer work with young people across the state, in projects ranging from horsemanship to computer programming.

"The Oregon 4-H Hall of Fame honors individuals who have had a significant impact providing opportunities for personal growth and increasing social and technical skills to youth between kindergarten and 12th grade," said Helen Pease, OSU Extension's 4-H youth program coordinator.

A 2006 study published by Tufts University researchers concluded that 4-H clubs are among the most effective youth development organizations in the nation to develop positive influences in the lives of youth.

Focusing on five characteristics that indicate a positive response to individual and social interactions — competence, confidence, connection, character, and compassion — the Tufts study found that many community-based programs contribute to one or more of these characteristics, but only 4-H clubs contributed to all five.

OSU's 4-H programs are backed by university research and delivered by trained volunteer leaders, according to Roger Rennekamp, director of the OSU Extension 4-H program. "The programs engage youth over time, from kindergarten to college, developing in complexity as the individual grows up.

"If we are concerned about sustainable communities, we must include youth as our future citizens and leaders," he said.

The latest inductees to the 4-H Hall of Fame have encouraged a positive relationship between youth civic engagement and thriving individuals, according to Rennekamp.

For example, Robert Myron Knox of Curry County started in Extension as an assistant county agent in Lewis County, Washington. Later, he was a partner in a dairy farm on the Coos River and led a 4-H dairy club. In 1930, he was the first Extension agent hired in Curry County, assigned to 4-H and agriculture responsibilities. By 1934 his work in Coos County as an assistant agent was so well received that farmers and ranchers petitioned the county to hire Bob as their full-time county agent.

In 1934 Bob had enrolled 222 4-H Club members in 24 clubs — a large percentage of the youth population of the county at the time. He conducted workshops and tours and through the 4-H member demonstrations, improved 4-H families farming practices. A few of the state and national leaders developed under Bob's tutelage were A.W. "Bill" Sweet who developed a nationally recognized dairy and had one of the finest Jersey bulls in the United States, and Ralph Cope, who also developed an excellent Jersey herd and had the champion producing Jersey cow in the nation for three years.

Bob's additional accomplishments as a county agent included working with the Curry Extension Advisory Committee to bring electricity to Curry County and spearheading the development of a hospital in Gold Beach. Bob retired from Extension in 1950 but continued to serve 4-H and Curry County until his death in 1986.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Helen Pease, Roger Rennekamp