Phoebe Hodges Raulerson attributes much of her career success as an educator and Superintendent of Schools for Okeechobee County to her early start with 4-H.
“4-H has had such an impact on my life,” said Raulerson. “I credit the foundation of my leadership skills directly to the opportunities, modeling, and instruction in leadership and public speaking that I acquired as a young person in the 4-H program. The foundation of my understanding of finance was also acquired through 4-H project work and the accountability that requires.”
Raulerson fondly remembers the first speech she ever gave as a 4-Her. She said she “really fouled it up” and after that, her leaders “kept me at it” by having her deliver the speech over and over again to as many different groups as possible. Her leaders even had her deliver it on a radio broadcast. “By the time that was over, I knew how to give a speech,” laughed Raulerson.
While a 4-H member Raulerson earned many awards and she was the state winner in food preservation. She was a National 4-H Scholarship winner and served as a 4-H State Officer. She was president of the Collegiate 4-H Club while studying at the University of Florida.
But perhaps her biggest contribution to the 4-H program has been through her efforts in the school system as a teacher and administrator. Her strong belief in the educational opportunities found in the 4-H program prompted her to allow Okeechobee students to participate in 4-H activities during normal school hours. While serving as Superintendent for the Okeechobee school system Raulerson established a relationship between the school system and 4-H program like no other in the state of Florida.
“I support 4-H because of its positive impact on my life as a teenager, said Raulerson. ”I want those same experiences for as many of the young people in this county as possible,“ said Raulerson.
And what does Raulerson feel 4-H can offer youth today?
“4-H has expanded tremendously over the years and there are so many, varied interests that youth can be involved with now. But, it still has the outstanding excellent training on how to operate within an organization and what leaders should do,” said Raulerson.
She noted, “Participation in 4-H helps young people focus. They are not pulled off into undesirable areas. In other words, it takes up their time in an extremely positive way. They learn to deal with economics through their projects and learn to work together as a group. It helps them become more positive people.”
Raulerson believes 4-H also expands horizons for young people.“My family was not well off when I was growing up,” said Raulerson. “Through 4-H I was able to go to camp and short course. I saw a university. I got to go to Washington D.C. and Chicago. Traveling like that is a broadening experience. You meet people from all over the United States and it broadens your perspective. It opens your mind to possibilities.”
In addition to her work with 4-H, Raulerson has been very active in many aspects of education. She was named Florida’s distinguished principal in 1990 and also served as the president of the Florida Association of Secondary School Principals. The past four Commissioners of Education have appointed her to serve on statewide education task forces as well as the state’s Education Practices Commission. Most recently she was appointed to serve on the Commissioner of Education’s Blue Ribbon Committee for Education Governance.
“Every 4-H program should have a Phoebe Raulerson,” said Debbie Clements, Okeechobee County Extension. “Phoebe has served as a 4-H volunteer and brought her husband and children in to it. It’s been a family affair.”