As a 4-H Agent, one remembers many of their “firsts” on the job, i.e., their first day, their first fair, their first 4-H club meetings, etc. For me in Holmes County 4-H, I was hired in the midst of a reorganization phase within the program. I clearly remember meeting Jerrett Kandzer one of my first days on the job in 2007, a reserved yet quick-to-smile farm boy who seemed to be doing a good job of holding in the excitement of asking me 101 questions as his new 4-H Agent. He, along with his sister and parents, met with me to discuss re-establishing a 4-H archery club in our county. Excited to have volunteers and youth interested in starting an archery club again, I couldn’t wait to get started. That very next week, we all set a date for our first club meeting. Jerrett and I still laugh today about the day of our first club meeting when we had to count me, the 4-H Agent, as the fifth member in attendance so that we did not have to cancel our first club meeting! However, thanks to Jerrett’s perseverance and leadership as a youth nine years ago when starting the Dead Centers 4-H Archery Club in Holmes County, we now have over 65 4-H members in our archery program alone! So, when getting ready to ask Jerrett how he believes 4-H has impacted him, I hesitate. Thinking back over the past nine years, I am finding it difficult to think whether Jerrett has been impacted more so by 4-H or if 4-H has been impacted more so because of Jerrett. For a 4-H Agent to have the pleasure to ponder such a wonderful conundrum means that 4-H is truly growing inspiring leaders!
According to Jerrett, he joined 4-H as a means to find extracurricular activities that fit not only his after school schedule around his farm life but also to find an outlet that fit him personally. As he put it, “I was looking for somewhere I fit in. I wasn’t an athlete in school. I was raised on a farm. So, I thought 4-H was cool.” After joining 2007, Jerrett began to help rebuild and cultivate a sense of belonging for the next seven years in Holmes County 4-H. With his giving spirit, contagious enthusiasm, and natural sense of urgency to make actions count, he truly inspired everyone he met to get involved and make the best better.
Jerrett’s passion for learning, leadership, and youth continues as he is applying his 4-H-acquired life skills in his life journey. Currently, he is a junior at the University of Florida in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, with a graduation date of Spring 2018. He attributes his good leadership and time management skills to his deep involvement with 4-H. Always wanting to do much more than time allows, Jerrett said 4-H taught him to prioritize and schedule his time efficiently. In fact, In between college classes, studying, squeezing in fast visits back home, and working with CRU on campus, Jerrett still devotes time to 4-H as a volunteer with Alachua County 4-H. When asked why he felt compelled to volunteer at this time in his life, Jerrett replied with his easy grin, “Ms. Niki, there are not many ways to serve your community as a poor college kid. Overall, I’d say being a 4-H volunteer is an easy and safe way to give back to kids and the community.” When asked about what he enjoys the most about 4-H, Jerrett immediately replied, “Working with kids. Helping youth learn by doing through hands on experiences is a good vessel for them to mature with positive adult role models around to assist them. 4-H is not about winning like other youth programs are about. It’s about growing through maturity, not competition.”
Jerrett is a Holmes County 4-H alumni, a true 4-H leader. He is a present day 4-H example of the definition John Quincy Adams once gave a leader, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” So it’s little surprise that this 4-H alumni has no intentions of ending his green journey after college. Jerrett’s career plans include putting his 4-H life skills, farm experience, and University of Florida education to perfect use as a future UF/IFAS Extension Agriculture Agent. We look forward to Jerrett’s return to the Extension Service one day soon.
Are you a 4-H Alumni interested in “paying it forward” to inspire the next generation? We would love to talk to you about the different ways you can help us grow 4-H in your community! Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org for more information.