Last updated: September 02. 2014 5:35PM - 317 Views
By Laura A. Grier Extension At Your Service

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The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, the largest outreach program at North Carolina State University, reaches millions of North Carolina residents each year through local centers in the state’s 100 counties and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Cooperative Extension is a partnership that began in 1914 when county, state and federal governments agreed that joining together they could provide all citizens with access to the wealth of knowledge generated by public universities. Today, that partnership includes county governments working to solve local problems, a national network of land-grant universities including N.C. State and N.C. A&T State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In our county centers across the state, county agents are the bridge between the state’s people and university. Agents educate the public through a variety of means such as meetings and workshops, field days and personal consultations. They also provide publications, newsletters, social media interaction, videos and other educational materials.

However, it is volunteers that are the backbone for North Carolina Cooperative Extension — offering and extending programming to the local citizens on sustaining agriculture and forestry, protecting the environment, maintaining viable communities, developing responsible youth and developing strong, healthy and safe families.

The Cooperative Extension’s mission is education and the roles of extension volunteers relate directly to helping people secure information to educate themselves or others, according to Elizabeth Bolton, professor at the University of Florida. Volunteers assist with many services such as teaching groups, counseling individuals, organizing educational events and projects, assisting with research and demonstrations, sharing information informally and serving as officers and leaders.

There are many reasons people choose to volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Volunteering can help…

* To build relationships

* To fulfill a sense of service

* Build the future

* Build self-esteem and self-confidence

* Learning to learn or learn new job skills

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service is continually looking for volunteers who have a few hours to give back to their community, especially the youth component of the extension service, 4-H Youth Development.

4-H is a national organization that helps young people, ages 5-19, develop knowledge and skills and become productive citizens. It also helps youth to be more capable to meet the challenges of today’s society. 4-H allows youth and adults to work together to design programs that will teach skills for living.

“Volunteers in the North Carolina 4-H program come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and fill many different roles,” Davidson County 4-H agent Julie Jones said. “Volunteers may be club leaders with groups of young people. These volunteers help to plan educational programs and organize community service projects to give the youth opportunities to gain life skills such as responsibility, record keeping, and leadership.

“Some volunteers work with specific programs that are limited to a shorter-term commitment. These programs might include teaching a class in an area of interest like woodworking, sewing, electric, or etiquette. This might be a person who serves as a coach for young people preparing for public speaking contests or who serves as a judge for the competition.”

Youth who develop such skills at an early age will continue to use those same skills as they grow, possibly helping them choose a career path that will lead to a successful and productive future. North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s volunteers make a significant difference in our community for both young and old.

For additional information on volunteer opportunities or 4-H Youth Development, please contact Laura Grier, extension agent for 4-H Youth Development, at laura_grier@ncsu.edu or visit www.facebook.com/richmondcounty4h.

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