Known for her enthusiasm for youth development that teaches through hands-on learning, Marilyn Halusky enjoyed a long career with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. She continued volunteering with the 4-H program after her decades-long career as a 4-H agent and program leader had ended.
It’s been a fulfilling experience, says Marilyn. “Helping young people use their talents, practice their leadership skills, and work with others has made 4-H fun and enriched my life,” said Marilyn Halusky. Halusky became a 4-H member when she was in junior high school in Ohio and began teaching 4-H teen leaders while she was in college at Ohio State University.
When Halusky graduated from high school, she recalled not being able to stand in front of a class to deliver a book report. While teaching 4-H teen leaders in college, she saw the need for young people to learn public speaking skills early in life. She vowed to provide as many young people as possible with those opportunities.
After graduating from college, she became a home economics teacher in Georgia in 1967. Two years later, she became the 4-H and home economics agent in Wakulla County, Florida. In 1976 she became 4-H program leader in Duval County.
“Marilyn has always been committed to the 4-H mission and to helping youth,” said Thomas Braddock, former Cooperative Extension Director in Duval County. “It has been a joy to me to observe her work, her love for the youth and her dedication to the 4-H program.”
She served as an extension agent for 29 years. Halusky involved 4-H members in leadership and teaching roles, working to structure programs that utilized “learning by doing” experiential programs. In her 4-H programs, she always encouraged young people to try public speaking and work to master it – whether it was through demonstrations, participating at Florida 4-H congress, the 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking Contest, or State 4-H Legislature.
Halusky was instrumental in establishing the statewide “I Can, We Can” program. She also piloted and promoted the national “asset-building” model to help communities understand how positive youth development programs impact young people for life.
“Enabling youth to gain an understanding of their own potential, giving them opportunities to develop leadership skills, and teaching them the ability to work with others of different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds has made working long hours, working weekends, and traveling with youth away from my home and family worthwhile,” said Halusky.
The Expedition Training Model she developed helped young people develop leadership skills. She gave teens specialized training to support leadership roles they would take on during their expeditions and helped them raise funds to support their projects. Some of the training projects included mapping an underwater coral reef, exploring Costa Rica, hiking the Appalachian Trail, and examining career and home design in Atlanta, Georgia.
“She works hard and gives willingly of herself and her time to the 4-H program,” said Braddock. “She goes far beyond expectations in any endeavor she undertakes and I know she has been a positive influence on the lives of many youth.”
Through weekly 4-H presentation on the “Hi Neighbor” television show, Halusky let more people know about 4-H and provided young people with valuable presentation skills. She also hosted the “Farm and Home” television show on TV4. She established a career exploration program, the “My Government My Day “ program, and the annual 4-H Roundup. Her innovative work with the 4-H Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program reached thousands of at-risk young people.
Her work with 4-H gave her a full understanding of the concept of “learning by doing” and “making the best better.” Halusky was aware of the impact and influence that her personal example as 4-H agent would have on youth with whom she worked. Consequently, she set a personal goal to always be aware of the impact her personal example would have on youth. She strove to set a high standard. “I hope I met this goal,” said Halusky. “It is still a thrill to run across a former 4-Her who will tell me about their career, the wholesome positive influence 4-H had on them and that in many cases, their children are now enrolled in 4-H.”
She coordinated a 4-H faculty of four extension professionals in Duval County. She secured three program assistants, a secretary, and a part-time foundation resource development coordinator. Together, they supported 86 4-H clubs and reached more than 22,000 special interest youth with 4-H programs.
Providing resources to support 4-H youth development programs was also important to Halusky. In 1984 she established a membership program for the Duval County 4-H Foundation. It grew to support a budget of $84,000 annually. She also acquired a van for the 4-H program. With foundation funding, she arranged for district-wide workshops for extension agents, teens, and volunteers using 4-H specialists from Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York.
Growing the professional experience of 4-H volunteers and agents was also important to Halusky. She established and coordinated district “Adult Volunteer Training Day” on weekends, coordinating them for 10 years as part of her personal goal to provide unique training opportunities for youth and adults. She attended more than twenty professional improvement conferences and served for four years on the national editorial board for the Journal of Extension. She was elected president of the Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents and Epsilon Sigma Phi.
“Her enthusiasm infects volunteers and they become better teachers as she shows them how to engage the hearts and minds of the youth they advise,” said Braddock. Her impact on youth is multiplied in communities as youth take their place as leaders.”
Community service and volunteering was an important part of Halusky’s 4-H programs. She coordinated an annual community service and fundraising exhibit at the fair called “Old McDonald’s Farm.” Annually she applied for a grant that provided mini-grants to help 4-H clubs conduct community service projects. For eight consecutive years, she nominated adults and teens for the “12 Who Care” sponsored by TV12 and the volunteer of the year program created by TV4.
After her retirement from extension work in 1999, Halusky was instrumental in raising money for an endowment fund in the Duval County 4-H Foundation. The endowment fund grew to more than $250,000 and provides ongoing support to 4-H programs. Marilyn Halusky was a dedicated, tireless and creative 4-H agent. She continues her dedication to 4-H youth development as a volunteer today.