HOT SPRINGS – For the 75th consecutive year, millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni across the country celebrated National 4-H Week earlier this month, during the first week of October. Fall River County 4-H leveraged National 4-H Week by showcasing the incredible experiences that 4-H offers young people, highlighting the remarkable 4-H youth in our community and the adult volunteers who make a positive impact.
To help promote 4-H and to celebrate the program’s various ways in which it impacts youth, this week the Hot Springs Star features Brad Keizer, the SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor for Custer & Fall River Counties.
1) Tell us a little about your background and how you came to live in Hot Springs.
I’ve lived all over the place, but call Illinois ‘home.’ Although, I believe I’ve lived in Hot Springs longer than anywhere in my life now… I think it’s been a little over 8 yrs? I moved here to help establish the Boys & Girls Club, which I did successfully. It was a challenge, but the community supported the effort and they’re continuously doing well. I’ve been in youth development professionally for 15 years, beginning in Kentucky, where I developed programs and lead a ropes / challenge course at my alma mater; Murray State University. Since then, I’ve done quite a bit with a youth focus, including serving as a Parks & Rec Program Specialist, YMCA Camp Director, Boy Scout Exec, and eventually to Hot Springs where I plan to remain.
2) How did you get on the path of making a career out of working with youth?
My path of youth work is somewhat personal, as I experienced a bit of ‘challenging shuffling’ as a child. As a result, I wasn’t one big into sports. This resonated within me, as I felt kids lacking confidence are likely to avoid sports, yet still need something fulfilling to be proud of. Between that mind-set and simply life’s developments, I found my nitch early through an internship with my Minor: Youth, Human Service & Non-Profit Mgmt. I suppose I was hooked from then on… I thought I’d lean more towards outdoor adventure leadership, but as my favorite quote goes: “A good way to make God laugh, is to announce your plans.” I’ve taken a different path of making an impact and wouldn’t do it differently given the chance. It’s intrinsically rewarding and truly makes a difference.
3) Describe the duties of your current position.
Every day is different and there are many challenges. Overall, I am responsible for 4-H Youth Development in Custer & Fall River Counties, with offices in both Custer & Hot Springs. In addition to overseeing 4-H programming, I am here to serve as an advisor to youth organizations, groups, etc. Anything to do with youth development, I try to have some connection to, although 4-H is so busy, it consumes a great deal of time with crazy hours; camps, weekend events, evening activities, teen leadership trips, and so much more. I provide support to numerous adult volunteers, providing opportunities for kiddos through clubs, after school programs & special events… there’s quite a bit! SDSU Extension re-structured a few years back and that’s when I was approached about this position by the ‘Extension Educators’. Around that same time, I presented at a Character Educator’s Conference and was afterwards approached by my current supervisor. I know, looking back, that was sort of an interview and it all just fell into place. I believe this chapter began January of 2011.
4) What is 4-H and why should parents consider having their children check it out?
4-H is one of the most diverse youth development opportunities available. As I mentioned above, I’ve worked with a wide variety of youth organizations and can honestly state that 4-H is for ALL youth (K – College). The overall principle of the nation’s largest youth development program is based on experiential learning; learning by doing. Kids choose from various project areas; focus on that, learn, grow, develop skills, and experience successes as a result. 4-H was founded on traditional skills emphasizing agriculture or home-ec type learning experiences. As that continues to be our strength, 4-H offers a bit of everything for everyone. Project areas range from Aeronautics, Robotics, Geology, or Arts to Livestock, Sewing, Cooking, etc. In addition, kids learn to speak publicly, set goals, develop leadership traits, and simply learn true life skills that remain with them through adult-hood. Anyone can join 4-H by contacting someone they know who’s involved, stopping by our office (across from the Court House, but moving soon), email; Bradley.email@example.com, call 745-5133, or check us out on Facebook; www.facebook.com/CusterFallRiverCounty4H
5) What values or other benefits do youth learn by participating in 4-H?
Like many things in life, you get out what you put in. 4-H is no different, but truly does have something for everybody. Social skills, leadership opportunities, career-introduction, life-skills, character education & development, goal-setting, and just plain fun too. The sky is the limit, as some choose to do little and others excel; receive our many scholarships, achieve great things and eventually contribute greatly to society as a result. Quite often, I have folks tell me they can tell when kids were in 4-H after job interviews, presentations, or how well they conduct themselves in various situations. That’s a priceless ‘benefit’ in itself.