The 4-H motto is to Make the Best Better. The thought behind this is to practice critical thinking to improve future efforts based on past success. While this idea is shared with 4-H youth, volunteers and staff are encouraged to follow it as well.
Recently, Michelle Teitsma, 4-H Program Assistant, was recognized for her contributions to the 4-H program in Sussex County. Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) with an Excellence award. The award recognizes faculty and staff who demonstrate outstanding performance and creativity, and highlight their contributions to RCE and how they have resulted in a positive change or have made a significant impact.
Michelle Teitsma came up through 4-H as a youth in the equine program and joined the Sussex 4-H staff working with 4-H Agent, Sherman “Buz” Tomasino. Among Michelle’s many contributions has been the growth of the 4-H public presentation program in Sussex County. When she began, the program involved 25-30 youth annually making county-level public presentations. Over the years, she has grown this number ten-fold. In 2013, 300 youth participated in the Sussex 4-H public presentations program. Under Michelle’s guidance, this has become the largest county-level public presentations program in New Jersey 4-H.
4-H Alumni have identified public speaking as among the most valuable skills learned during their time in the program. The 4-H presentations program provides youth with life-long skills for developing and presenting their ideas and themselves.
During the last seven years, Michelle has been instrumental in raising funds towards a $175,000 4-H building constructed at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in 2007. The building is a showcase for 4-H projects and programming during the annual fair. The Shotwell 4-H Educational Exhibit Hall is used by 4-H clubs and other local non-profits for programming and events throughout the year. The completion of this building realizes a goal of Sussex 4-H volunteers for over 35 years.
Michelle has worked with staff and volunteers to coordinate events that raised more than $70,000 (41% of total project costs) through local donations. These events have included raffles (50/50’s) and silent auctions (tricky trays). Michelle has been highly resourceful and diligent in implementing the most successful fundraising venture in the Sussex County program’s history.
As part of her responsibilities, Michelle also oversees the participation of over 500 4-H youth each year in the annual 10 day, New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show. This work involves review and evaluation of each member’s project record book (journals). Additionally she is involved in the registration and scheduling of member’s projects, shows and performances during the fair.
Although she no longer rides, Michelle continues to supporter the 4-H Horse Program. She and colleague Abby Naranjo volunteer their time as coaches for the county’s 4-H Horse Bowl quiz team. Together they meet with local 4-H horse club members weekly to provide education on various aspects of horse care and ownership. The enthusiasm and knowledge Michelle developed as a youth in 4-H has carried forward to her work as a staff person. Her efforts continue to grow and improve the 4-H program in Sussex County, making the best better!