(Posted Feb. 20, 2019)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
Madison County’s 4-H Rally Night is described as an evening of discovery. Potential members roam informational booths, looking for anything that might pique their interest. Current members do the same, albeit modifying their quest to find more activities.
Parents, many of whom were 4-Hers in their youth, seek specifics from program leaders while trying to gauge their children’s interest before their children drag them to the big and small animals display.
These types of scenarios played out once again at this year’s 4-H Rally Night, held Feb. 13 at the Della Selsor Building on the Madison County fairgrounds in London. One variation from Rally Nights of years past was the presence of a new 4-H program director.
Earlier this month, Frances Nicol started her job as the new 4-H educator of youth development for the Ohio State University Extension-Madison County. She seized Rally Night as the perfect opportunity to get to know current and potential 4-Hers, advisors and parents.
“I was able to meet a whole bunch of new people, discover some of the programs that are being offered, ask questions of club leaders and advisors, and learn more about this great community where I will be working,” she said.
Nicol’s journey to her new position began many years ago when she was first a tag-along to her older siblings who participated in 4-H then a member herself.
“I guess you could say I decided to follow in their footsteps,” said the Union County native.
At age 8, Nicol began showing steer in her county’s junior fair.
“It was my dad’s idea,” she said. “He showed cattle at fairs and wanted us to learn how to do it.”
Though she wasn’t crazy about showing steer at first, Nicol said it turned out to be a big lesson in responsibility.
“We had to take care of them, feed them, wash them and walk them every day,” she said. “It taught us responsibility right off the bat.”
In addition to showing steer, Nicol was involved in sewing and nutrition projects and later the Future Farmers of America.
“There was so much I was interested in,” she said.
As a freshman at Fairbanks High School, Nicol joined the Union County junior fair board and became a camp counselor, supervising younger children as they discovered their own love of the outdoors.
“I think being a camp counselor was one of the most fulfilling roles I have had in 4-H,” she said.
Upon graduating from high school in 2014, Nicol attended The Ohio State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in agriscience education in 2018. During her time at the university, she was a 4-H program assistant in Union County and an OSU Extension program assistant for 4-H camping and older youth. The latter was a position she held for more than a year before taking the job in Madison County.
Nicol said she looks forward to leading the youth programs in Madison County. One of her goals is to engage older youth and build on teen programs. She hopes to visit local schools to talk about the 4-H organization and the programs they offer.
“When I was in college, we did a lot of engagement with children in urban school districts,” she explained. “Most were under the impression that 4-H was just for rural farm kids but that is not always the case. What I would like to see is more engagement with children and youth that have that perception and show them some of the other programs we have beyond raising animals.”
Nicol said she is also is excited to help the junior fair board prepare for the Madison County Fair this summer.
“They will do all the work they normally do,” she said. “I’ll just be there to answer any questions and get water for them when they need it.”