Partner With 4-H And Get Involved With Kids, Says New Leader

By:
Ami Neiberger

Source:
Christine Taylor Waddill (352) 392-1761

GAINESVILLE – Educational programs for thousands of Florida’s kids just got better. Damon Miller assumed the role of State Leader in January for the University of Florida’s 4-H Youth Development Program. “Floridians should look at 4-H as an organization that helps young people stay on the right course in life,” said Damon Miller. “What we have in 4-H is an educational program that is a success, because communities have banded together around the theme of voluntarism and partnership. We all should get involved and become partners to help kids.”

Through community clubs, school enrichment and summer camp programs, the Florida 4-H program helps kids explore the environment, animal science, technology, plant science, community service, and develop leadership and communication skills. 4-H involves 331,000 kids in Florida ages 5-18 and is active in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

“Damon brings dynamic vision and leadership to the 4-H program,” said Christine Taylor Waddill, dean for extension at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “He has devoted his life to working on behalf of children and bettering their opportunities for success. I’m glad to see him step into this role, and I think the future for 4-H in Florida looks very bright.”

“I want for us to become the leading proactive youth organization in Florida,” said Miller. He’s going to do that By promoting community 4-H clubs, because they “offer the best avenue for impacting the lives of young people in a profound and positive way. The club setting provides in-depth leadership and citizenship development opportunities and offers mentoring relationships.” More than 1,200 4-H community clubs were active in Florida last year.

Today the value of mentoring relationships is being promoted By General Colin Powell and television celebrities, but mentoring relationships have been part of 4-H for a long time, observed Miller. Miller said, “Mentoring relationships are important because they provide young people with living examples to emulate and use as a pattern when making decisions governing their own future.”

4-H launched a national public awareness campaign with the Ad Council, 4-H “Are You Into It?” last fall. Through print, radio, television and billboard ads, the campaign aims to get more kids involved in community service through 4-H and to revamp 4-H’s image. “We are very excited about the ad campaign’s potential to showcase the diversity of the 4-H program and expose more people to 4-H,” said Miller. “By donating advertising space, the ad campaign gives the media an opportunity to make a positive impact on youth programs in their own communities. The campaign lets 4-H shine, and it lets the media shine too.”

“I like this ad campaign because it shows kids taking action in their own communities, and that ties in to a basic philosophy of the 4-H program,” said Miller. “We don’t design educational programs for kids; instead we partner with kids and involve them in program planning. They end up becoming better kids because we’ve entrusted them with some responsibility, and because we’ve demonstrated that we believe in them.”

Miller has devoted his life to public service. He served as acting district extension director for one year for the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, and spent 25 years working with FAMU Extension’s 4-H program. He received the distinguished service award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents in 1993. A member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, he served as their vice-president at the national level for four years. He was awarded the Raymond S. Bounds Award for leadership By Phi Beta Sigma in 1990. He was named to Outstanding Personalities in the South and Outstanding Young Men of America (1979).

Miller served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and was in the U.S. Naval Reserves for six years. In 1970, he received an M.S. degree in agriculture and home sciences from Iowa State University. He earned a B.S. in agricultural science from Fort Valley State University in Georgia in 1969. He is married and has two sons.

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Photo available By calling Ami Neiberger at (352) 846-0996 extension 231. Materials for the ad campaign 4-H “Are You Into It?” with the Ad Council are also available for television and radio stations, as well as magazines, newspapers and billboards.