For Thomas and Earlece Greenawalt, 4-H has been a way of life for more than 60 years.
Earlece Greenawalt was a self described “very, very shy” child. At the age of ten she joined 4-H and Mrs. Greenawalt says that has been one of the best things that has ever happened to her.
“One of the biggest things I’ve gained from 4-H was self-confidence. I was so shy as a child. Through participation in 4-H, I learned to speak and to have confidence in myself, and to talk with anybody,” said Mrs. Greenawalt. “This has served me well my whole life and I’ve been in a lot of situations where I would have been stuck without it.”
She completed projects in clothing, food preparation, canning, childcare, poultry, recreation and vegetable crops, and was often an award winner at county and state events. She was the winner of the East Hillsborough County Tractor Driving Contest. She also attended county 4-H camp, where she served as a junior counselor.
As a young high school student, Mrs. Greenawalt made several trips to Girls 4-H Short Course. It was during one of these trips that 4-H Agent Emily King changed Mrs. Greenawalt’s life with one question.
“During a car trip Dr. Emily King asked ‘What’s your philosophy of life?’ and I thought ‘I don’t have one, I better get one.’ She taught me to think bigger and to think more expansively,” said Mrs. Greenawalt. “Had I not had 4-H, my world would have been much more narrow.”
Her trips to Tallahassee for the short course in the summertime also expanded her ideas for her future. “Attending Girls 4-H Short Course made me eager for a college education by exposing me to possibilities and opportunities never before dreamed of, let alone seriously considered,” said Mrs. Greenawalt. “4-H expected high standards and values and rewarded achievement through completion of the projects was self-paced.”
The skills learned in 4-H impacted her for lifetime, and she feels 4-H teaches young people lasting skills today. “As a counselor helping with camp activities or a college student helping with Short Course we constantly learned new skills in the process. These same skills and attitudes transferred into adult and career life as always seeing the possibilities and positive side of situations; being willing to try novel approaches and solutions and adding a generous dose of fun
and humor to expedite the objectives,” said Mrs. Greenawalt.
In cooperation with the boys 4-H program, FHEA, FFA and representatives of the local chamber of commerce, Greenawalt helped establish the East Hillsborough County Jr. Agricultural Fair that is now an integral part of the popular Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
In college she remained active by joining the College 4-H Club and attending rural youth conferences. She received a bachelor of science degree in home economics education from Florida State University. After college Mrs. Greenawalt taught home economics at Chiefland High School and became a professional home demonstration agent in Levy County. Her enthusiasm and dedication led her husband to a career in 4-H as well.
“My wife was a county home demonstration agent while I was attending the University of Florida,” said Dr. Greenawalt. “I had the opportunity to look over her shoulder and see some of the work she was doing. Having been a 4-H person myself I was really drawn to it, so I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and went on to get my master’s degree and PhD in extension education.”
“Being a 4-H person” for Dr. Greenawalt included growing up near Plant City where his mother was an active extension homemaker and 4-H volunteer leader. He became a 4-H agent in Manatee County, and joined the state 4-H staff in 1966. He was responsible for developing the camping program, developing materials to help 4-H club leaders, and supervising programs and events.
As a member of the state 4-H staff, Dr. Greenawalt secured grants to create the first 4-H marine education program. He also initiated the 4-H marine camps held at the Florida Keys, Marineland and State 4-H Camp Timpoochee. He also developed a successful volunteer 4-H leader program that became the model used nationally.
“The passion for fascinating, unique and creative learning-sharing opportunities sealed my destiny relevant to a professional 4-H career. Because of my zeal for youth development accompanied by the enriching leadership, relations and educational outreach of 4-H, the quality of my life and that of my family has also been tremendously influenced and enhanced,” he said.
Both Dr. and Mrs. Greenawalt have enjoyed the creativity and opportunity for growth that 4-H has offered them. Dr. Greenawalt remembers a time when he was a county 4-H agent in Manatee County in the 1960’s.
“Goddard Space Flight Center contacted us to see if we could catch fireflies. NASA was implementing a space project where they needed the chemical extracted from the tails of fireflies. They needed them as fast as they could get them. When I broached the subject the kids were eager to accept. We engaged in projects with NASA and Goddard to catch thousands and thousands of fireflies. This project was covered by Life, Time and Newsweek magazines. It was a unique project that put our group on the map as far as volunteer recruitment. We didn’t have trouble finding volunteers after that,” said Dr. Greenawalt.
Besides being a strong supporter of her husband’s professional efforts and building her own programs as an extension agent, Mrs. Greenawalt also served as a record book and demonstration judge at the state level. She earned a master of education degree from the University of Florida and majored in curriculum. She was also certified in home economics education, home demonstration, and science. She served as a volunteer 4-H leader for the Florida 4-H Congress delegation.
She became a highly-respected and effective occupational specialist teaching employable skills in food and nutrition at the Lofton Agribusiness Adult Education Center. She was honored for her outstanding contributions as the recipient of the Florida Education Association’s Lloyd L. Brumfield Scholarship.
“It’s been easy to stay involved with 4-H for so many years,” said Mrs. Greenawalt. “It has always been fun and you meet interesting people - above and beyond run of the mill people. People who are easily bored and only concerned with themselves are going to get involved with something else. 4-H is surrounded by good and helpful people who are a joy to be with.”
Even after his retirement from extension work, Dr. Greenawalt continued to volunteer to help coordinate Florida’s National 4-H Congress delegation. That’s why you can see him in so many of the delegation photos saved over the years!In a note written to a 4-H member who had expressed her congratulations to them upon their induction into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame, Tom and Earlece wrote, “The 4-H slogan “Learn by Doing” was truly the ingredient that motivated and enhanced our early years as 4-H members, and continues to enrich us as ‘seasoned citizens.’ Had it not been for opportunities that 4-H provided, our lives would surely have taken a different path…one not nearly as satisfying.”