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4-H summer internships provide young adults with hands-on opportunities to build skills to lead

Tre Goode and Leah Polejewski are both Minnesota 4-H summer interns. Each of them brings a powerful combination of energy and expertise to their work. Each of them is taking on challenges that give the chance to lead.

Leading from experience

Kids hanging pictures on a poster

As a 4-H alum, Leah brings a lifetime's knowledge of the 4-H "flow of things" to her summer job in rural Yellow Medicine County. Each week, she leads 30-40 youth ages 5-10 through a wide range of activities, from expressive arts to environmental science, all to a super hero theme. She is also the 4-H science activities coordinator in nearby Lyon County. It's her second such summer - last year she was the summer intern in Lyon County.

With her depth of 4-H experience, her supervisor, Program Coordinator Alicia Webb, feels comfortable allowing Leah to choose the specific lessons the youth will do, based on the youths' own interests. Leah leads youth through their projects, focusing the learning. If youth ask her how to turn it into a county fair entry, she can draw upon her own experience to advise them.

It's no coincidence that Leah has chosen three 4-H jobs in two years - it's deliberate. Most students choose their field of study before they settle on a career, but not Leah. She had been on a break from studying when she realized that 4-H was her life's calling. "When I was in 4-H, in the county fair, sitting in the tack stall and the public asked us about the livestock, I'd have a conversation with them about whatever they were interested in. I started educating people about 4-H and animals." Leah said. "4-H is not just about the county fair and it's not all about livestock. It's so much more than that," she said. She is now majoring in agribusiness and animal science at South Dakota State University, with an aim to work for 4-H after graduation.

An opportunity to stretch and grow

intern standing by poster

Tre' Goode brings seven years of youth work experience to his summer internship in rural Faribault County.  He sought the job and the rural setting not because they were familiar, but because they were not.

"I was always raised to step out of your comfort zone. I just love learning about people, and it's easier to relate to more people by looking at things from their point of view," Goode said. The ethnic studies major grew up in Iowa City. Until he applied to be a 4-H intern at Iowa State University last year he had never heard of 4-H.

At Iowa State 4-H, he led an after-school program primarily for Sudanese youth in the city that focused on civic engagement and leadership. He has coached sports for five years, primarily to new immigrant youth.

This year, he wanted a different kind of job. "I wanted to see the other side of the coin. I am a person who really wants to learn about people - learning about people and their learning styles, their cultures, every aspect of people."

In Faribault County, Tre works closely with Program Coordinator Michele Klinkner, delivering summer programming for youth in myriad subject areas. Last week it was STEAM camp (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) and next week it will be Cloverbuds - youth in Kindergarten through grade two. He has also helped out at county fair.

Compared with urban youth, "There are different challenges that youth in a rural area have to face and overcome," Tre said. "Watching Cloverbuds at county fair the way they worked with animals was quite impressive."

"4-H offers opportunities like STEAM camp that help broaden kids' perspectives and their learning," he added. "A lot of kids don't think that they can create, so having a program like that that shows them yes they can shows them a lot more that they can achieve in the future ... it gets them together with kids who are not like themselves or their core group in school."

After graduation, Tre plans to be an educator, or start or work in a nonprofit organization. "It's important for me to learn about other people's cultures and how I can help them."


Ann Nordby
Extension Center for Youth Development

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