New Programs Begin
During Dr. James Brasher’s tenure as Assistant Dean and Department Chair, the Florida 4-H program flourished with the addition of many new programs. One of the most successful new programs was Florida 4-H Legislature, a mock youth legislature conducted in Tallahassee in the State Capital Building. Youth attending the event were housed on the Florida State University campus. County and state faculty also began developing additional program delivery strategies that again included the public schools in school enrichment programming. Greater focus was also placed on making the 4-H program accessible to all youth regardless of racial, economic, or rural/urban status. 4-H Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Programs (EFNEP) became one of the key delivery methods for innercity youth during this time period.
In 1981, Dr. Sue Fisher was recruited from a 4-H specialist position at the University of Minnesota, to become the Assistant Dean and Department Chair for 4-H. She served in that position until July 1, 1997. During this time frame, considerable attention was devoted to development of the 4-H volunteer system that grew to nearly 20,000 adult and teen leaders. Fundraising during the 1980s focused primarily on support for the development of the 4-H camp facilities. Private funds were instrumental in making major improvements in three of the four 4-H camps. As new private funds were secured to improve the camp facilities, increased operating costs required higher user fees. Between 1981 and 1997, camp fees increased from $18 to about $110 per week.
Strategic Planning for Florida 4-H
Strategic planning for the Florida 4-H program occurred in 1991-92. Over 1500 youth and adults from across the state, plus representatives from county and state faculty, the Foundation Board of Directors, and cooperating agencies and organizations were involved. The plan they developed served as a guide in programming and organizational development activities. Based on recommendations in the plan and in response to budget constraints, considerable attention was given to updating the 4-H curriculum. Florida 4-H specialists and county faculty have received national recognition for work in this area.
More Recent History
In the past eight years, downsizing has impacted all of IFAS, including the 4-H Youth Development Program. The number of state-supported faculty at the state and county level has been reduced. At the same time, the number of county faculty lines assigned to 4-H programming expanded due to financial support from county resources. For the state 4-H faculty, downsizing has required that critical decisions be made regarding assignment of faculty time. In the early 1990s, for example, the assignment of 2.5 FTEs to 4-H district liaison roles was eliminated. The state 4-H faculty focused their time and program leadership roles on liaison with subject matter departments and specialists, while also developing a rather sizable committee structure to accommodate needed and sustained communications with county faculty. Despite these challenges, the program has continued to grow and now serves nearly a quarter million youth in Florida.
On July 1, 1996, Florida 4-H experienced another major change in its campus-based organizational structure. The Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences was formed, merging the faculty within the Department of Home Economics, with the faculty from the Department of 4-H and Other Youth Programs. This new department with Extension, research and teaching functions houses a multi-disciplinary faculty with assignments in areas of family and consumer sciences, youth and community development.
A new organizational unit, referred to as the 4-H Youth Development Office (today’s State 4-H Office), supports the following functions: leadership for statewide 4-H program and evaluation, leadership for statewide program communications, marketing and accountability, coordination for 4-H youth development in-service and volunteer development programs, development of public/private resources, including management of the Florida 4-H Foundation, Inc., management of four residential 4-H camp facilities and associated programs, management of state 4-H events, activities, awards and recognition programs, scholarships, publications and other teaching aids supporting State Major Programs, and encouragement and support for development of innovative programs that address emerging youth needs.
Heather Kent is currently the Interim Associate State 4-H Program Leader, and Michael Gutter serves as Associate Dean for Extension and State Program Leader for 4-H Youth Development, Families & Communities.