Hello, fellow Hillsborough County residents. My name is Amber Norris, and I am your new Hillsborough County 4-H Agent. My personal 4-H experience includes 4-H youth alumni, 4-H leader, and volunteer. My husband of 35 years and I have two children who were active in 4-H and FFA. They are both married now and beginning their own family journey in 4-H.
My professional background comes from serving Hillsborough County Public Schools — the seventh-largest school district in the nation — as an educator, resource teacher and assistant principal, spanning 25 years. I am excited to combine these two aspects of my life to focus on making 4-H accessible to all school-aged children, 5-18, in Hillsborough County.
In my first month here at UF/IFAS Extension, I have been extremely busy introducing myself to as many agriculture stakeholders as possible. I want them to know that my mission is to make sure our 4-H members know that agriculture is alive and well in Hillsborough County, and there are job opportunities out there in agriculture. We have 13 traditional 4-H clubs. My mission is to increase the effect of our programs to more efficiently serve the fourth most populous county in Florida. Hillsborough has nearly 224,000 public school students, and we need to prepare them for opportunities in agriculture.
My experiences in education, in conjunction with the 4-H theory of “learning by doing,” will be the foundation of my work. Using a standards-based lens, experiential exercises are the focus of my efforts.
Dr. Mary Arnold’s Thrive Model will be followed to promote a positive youth development. The model begins with the foundation of the spark that a member possesses, creating a sense of belonging, building relationships, and encouraging engagement.
The Youth Thriving model includes developing a growth mindset, openness to challenge/discovery, setting a hopeful purpose, promoting prosocial orientation, and positive mindset and setting goals. The developmental outcomes are to create a positive academic attitude, social competence, personal standards, connections with others, personal responsibility, and contributions to the community.
This all leads to the long-term outcomes of academic/vocational success, civic engagement, employability, economic stability, happiness, and overall well-being. I will conduct needs assessments with youth and adults to find out what sparks our youth. These sparks will point us in the direction our program needs to go. The spark is the key.
On Feb. 9, a group of our youth leaders participated in the Florida Fresh Breakfast to practice their communication skills. The team shares how Hillsborough County 4-H has begun the journey of soaring together in a V formation. The lessons they learned from why geese fly in a V formation will be the basis of how Hillsborough will achieve great things together. One person will lead the journey for a while allowing others to benefit from the lift of the air. This lift correlates to teaching others what they know. Geese fly slightly over from the one in front so they can see clearly the direction they are heading, which reminds us to focus on where we are going as a group.
Just like the geese behind the leader honks to encourage them to continue the journey, we will shout accolades to encourage others. The other geese take turns to the leader, and this allows others to help in the difficult work of achieving their destination. Lesson learned: Together they will go farther in their journey.
We look for youth who want to ignite a spark and make a difference in our community. If you are an adult who wants to be a Spark Champion for our youth, we are looking for you. If you would like more information about Hillsborough County 4-H, please visit https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/4-h-youth-development/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.