Goodhue County’s Rebekah Mathews is growing a healthier community as a 4-H volunteer
What’s a volunteer?
It’s pretty simple, actually.
A volunteer as a person who freely offers their time to benefit others. For Rebekah Mathews, who grew up surrounded by proud dairy producers in Goodhue County, finding a way to give back and build new proud leaders and community members was her goal.
Although Rebekah didn’t grow up in 4-H, she knows many people who did and who still talk about their positive experiences. “I love the mental challenges that the various 4-H opportunities bring,'' she reflected. She wanted to get involved. Rebekah asked the local 4-H program coordinator if there were any volunteer openings, and dairy project bowl felt like a perfect fit. Four years later, Rebekah has proven to be a faithful and committed coach for two Goodhue County 4-H Dairy Project Bowl teams. And she loves the impact she’s making.
“I've returned season after season because I care about the kids and their efforts to improve their knowledge about the dairy industry,” Rebekah explained. “I love meeting newcomers, seeing their success and watching them grow.”
Team members partner with Rebekah to do a variety of learning activities that challenge their proficiency in dairy science topics. She even helps them to teach each other. “Watching their public speaking and critical thinking skills develop is a source of pride for me,” commented Rebekah. “A lot of what we do is teaching kids how to learn – no matter the subject matter. Hopefully they carry those skills into the future.”
Being a 4-H volunteer is deeply in line with Rebekah’s values. “The best thing about life is our interactions with each other. My positive role models in the past shaped who I am today. If I can have the smallest impact on today’s youth, I hope that impact will help create a better society.”
Rebekah is glad to share her enthusiasm for volunteering with others. She can see the value of it for her community and for her own wellbeing too. “Doing the same thing day after day creates a dull and closed mind. By trying new things and new opportunities, our mental health is invigorated.” And Rebekah’s not alone. Eighty-one percent of 4-H volunteers believe their work helps improve the health of their communities. “What better way to be challenged and learn than with the bright young minds in 4-H!”
We couldn’t agree more, Rebekah. Thanks for being part of growing healthy and engaged communities through Extension 4-H.
By Bailey Ruen
University of Minnesota student
Fillmore County 4-H member