Weekends showing commercial dairy heifers are cherished memories for Kelle Ashley, who was a devoted 4-H’er in her youth.

After college, Ashley taught second and fourth grade for six years before becoming an Extension agent. The biggest draw to the job, she said, is teaching children from fifth grade through high school graduation and witnessing the same excitement in their eyes that she had when she was their age. 

“When you see a kid’s growth over eight to nine years, you form strong bonds with families,” she proclaimed. 

Ashley has been with the Extension service for 10 years and in Oconee County for seven years. Currently, she is also the interim coordinator following the departure of Monte Stephens, who took a job in Greene County.  

This summer, the Georgia EMC Corporation presented Ashley with the William H. Booth Award for the northeast district. 

When interviewed about the award, Ashley enjoyed talking more about the students with whom she works.

Oconee County 4-H was fortunate to have nine students attend State Congress, the most in the district. Several have achieved the designation of Master 4-H’er, the highest honor of the organization. Winners are as follows: 

  •  Horse: Emily Coggins, second place
  • Financial planning and consumer economics: Alyssa Haag, second place
  • Textiles, merchandising and interiors: Robie Lucas, second place
  • Workforce preparation and career development: Jack Durham Marable, first place
  • Beef: Lexi Pritchard, third place
  • Human development: Lilly Ann Smith, third place
  • International: Leah Szczepanski, second place
  • Veterinary science: Thomas Stewart, second place
  • General recreation: Kalani Washington, first place

Special event winners were also recognized at State Congress. Oconee County 4-H had the state winning Dairy Quiz Bowl Team and state winning Land Judging Team. Both teams were made of Alicia Carnes, Alyssa Haag, Robie Lucas and Kalani Washington. In addition, Andrew Hunt, Neely McCommons and Kalani Washington were recognized as recipients of Georgia 4-H Foundation Scholarships.

The 2021 4-H Project Achievement winners from Oconee County are Kalani Washington and Jack Durham Marable.

Oconee County 4-H has a large membership of about 700 kids countywide. These are students from fifth to 12th grade. Ashley said Extension agents go into the schools monthly and encourage students to get involved in competitions and community service projects outside of the classroom. 

For example, students participating in the Leadership in Action program identify a problem in the community and create a plan of action. Projects can range from feeding homebound senior citizens to providing services to special needs students. 

“It encourages them to make partnerships in the community,” said Ashley. 

For more on this story, see the Aug. 26 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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