Carol Gollnick has been a 4-H leader for 35 years. If it were possible to clone 4-H leaders, University of Florida extension agent Judith Wakefield says she would clone Gollnick.
“Carol has been a role model not only for her 4-H club members,” said Wakefield, “but also for the other 4-H club leaders in Indian River County. She has always been willing to lend a helping hand wherever needed and provide encouragement and ideas for other leaders.”
In 1973 Gollnick was not familiar with the 4-H program, but had young twin daughters who were very interested in horses. As it happened, the owners of the stables where their horses were kept happened to be very active in 4-H. Gollnick says the more she learned about the 4-H program, the more she became convinced that it was something she wanted to be associated with.
“4-H seemed like such a great way for a family to work together,” said Gollnick. “It also taught these kids great life skills. They learned to work. With all they had to do in 4-H, my kids never had too much time for typical teenage problems.”
Gollnick’s girls were members only a short time before Gollnick became the assistant club leader for the Indian River County 4-H Horsemasters Club. Three years later, she became 4-H club leader. While the club is primarily a horse club, Gollnick insists that her members participate in other 4-H programs as well.
“We always had a club that was involved,” said Gollnick. “From the very beginning we encouraged our horse kids to get involved in judging, hippology, consumer judging, record books, and public speaking. We never said ‘this is just a horse club and all you do is ride and show’”.
Gollnick believes the skills and abilities that young people learn in 4-H will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Many of Gollnick’s former club members thank her for insisting they compete in county or national events because it gave them experience and courage that has helped them in their current careers.
“When our kids have grown they’ll call back and say ‘you made us do demonstrations and now I’m a great lawyer or teacher because all those times you made us stand up and talk in front of people,’” said Gollnick. “The hands-on learning they do teaches them about teamwork and leadership and participation.”
4-H directly impacted both of her daughters’ career choices. One of her daughters dreamed of becoming a well-known horse judge and has realized that dream as she travels all over the United States as a well-respected judge in her sport.
Her other daughter shows horses all over the U.S. She has a grandson who manages his parent’s forestry business and says many of the skills he gained in 4-H, such as public speaking, gave him the knowledge base he needs to work well with the public and in business.
While Gollnick’s club is very large, she still manages to provide meetings that are fun and educational. Every year they plan and hold a Valentine 4-H Horse Show to raise funds for their county, district, state and national activities. Her members have realized a lot of success over the years.
“Vera Beach isn’t a very big town yet in our club we’ve had three Florida State Council Presidents, one Vice-President, and many state demonstration winners. We’ve had three members that were Florida Horsemen of the year and many more who were runner-ups,” said Gollnick. “And this isn’t tooting my own horn because it’s the members’ achievements. What impresses me is what happens when you give these kids information and encouragement. They do something with it.”
Gollnick says she can’t imagine her life without 4-H. “Involvement with 4-H has given me friends and taken me places I never would have gone otherwise. It’s been a family affair and brought me closer to my family. I’ve known what we were doing is worthwhile and we’ve enjoyed it together.”
Gollnick’s dedication goes beyond 4-H. She is very active in her community and is a member of the IRC Association of Educational Office Personnel. She has also worked for the American Cancer Society and educational foundations.