Lyon Co. 4-H hopes to expand with second educator

MARSHALL — The Lyon County 4-H program is hoping to expand with the help of an additional University of Minnesota Extension educator, Extension staff said this week.

“We’re looking to grow as much as possible, and continue to create partnerships and continue to grow as many opportunities as we can,” said Sam Jens, Extension educator for youth development.

On Tuesday, area Extension representatives gave an update on their activities to the Lyon County Board. County commissioners also got to meet Renae Jenniges, the new Extension educator for youth development in Lyon County.

“I’m just short of a month on board,” Jenniges said. “I’m learning about what Lyon County has been doing, and what we can look forward to with my position.”

Jenniges said she was looking forward to reaching out to communities and school districts that Extension youth programs hadn’t been able to work with as much, including Lynd and Minneota.

Jenniges said she’s worked with the Private Industry Council in workforce development, and has experience with the Marshall Area YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

In December, commissioners had approved a funding increase that would allow the county Extension office to take a vacant position for a 4-H program assistant, and expand it into a 0.75 time educator position.

Lyon County 4-H has been growing and expanding, Jens said.

“This last year, Lyon County 4-H and youth development reached 932 kids county-wide,” Jens said. That total included both kids who participated in 4-H, and kids who took part in Extension partner programs for youth. “Of those, there were 72 new 4-H’ers in Lyon County. Thirty-nine of them are first-generation 4-H’ers, which means that no one in their family has participated in 4-H.”

Jens said kids reported that they learned from people different from them, and were able to gain confidence and do community service through Extension programs.

“With the extra staff, how many more kids do you hope to reach out to?” asked Commissioner Gary Crowley.

Jens said it was hard to pinpoint a set number of youth.

“My first couple of years as an educator here in Lyon County, I can tell you these were the numbers (of youth) I was reaching,” Jens said. “They were smaller numbers than that because I was growing partnerships. And that’s something that Renae will be doing too.”

Bonnie Christiansen, regional Extension director, thanked county commissioners for their support for the program. In addition to youth programs like 4-H, the Extension also supports programs ranging from the area master gardeners to nutrition and SNAP education.

“We just want to thank you so much for your support of Extension. Twenty-three percent of our Extension budget comes from our county partners, so we could not do this work without your support,” Christiansen said.

Christiansen said the Extension would be coming back to the county board later this year to discuss a new three-year agreement with Lyon County for the years 2025-27.


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