Grant County Extension Connection

Episode 4: Mindy Turner, NMSU Extension/4-H Youth Specialist

December 18, 2019 Jessica Swapp Season 1 Episode 4
Grant County Extension Connection
Episode 4: Mindy Turner, NMSU Extension/4-H Youth Specialist
Show Notes Transcript

Mindy Turner is the NMSU Extension/4-H Youth Specialist. She visits with me about the New Mexico 4-H program and the different 4-H events that are offered to 4-H youth in the state (Home Economics School, Senior Leadership Retreat, State 4-H Conference). Did you know there are different delivery methods for the 4-H program? She explains in-school, special interest and the traditional club 4-H delivery mode. Mindy explains all the different and fun things that youth can be involved in during their time in 4-H. Hurry and join Grant County 4-H before the December 19, deadline! 

Song Credit
Hooky with Sloane by Bird Creek Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0 Music provided by FreeMusic109  

Jessica :   0:02
Welcome to the Extension Connection podcast. The Grant County Cooperative Extension Service is here to help connect you with research based information about economic development, energy and water, farm and ranch, yard and garden, natural resources, health and well being, and our very popular youth development program 4-H. I'm your host, Jessica Swapp, the 4-H and agriculture agent here in Grant County, New Mexico. We are part of New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science and we are here to serve you. So let's get started.

Jessica :   0:48
Hi everyone thanks for listening to the podcast before we get started. I wanted to mention that the interview that I have with Mindy Turner that's coming up that you're going to hear. We were at the 4-H In-service training in Albuquerque, so you may hear some background noise. I did the best that I could to edit as much of it out as I could, but just understand that we were live and we were recording, so we weren't able to exactly have a perfect spot to have our interview. So if you hear a little background noise, just know that we were uh, we were working at the same time, so I hope you enjoy. Uh, Mindy has some really great things to share.  

Jessica :   1:30
Welcome back to the podcast today,  with me, I have Mindy Turner. She is the 4-H youth specialist. Is that correct?  

Mindy Turner:   1:39
One of them, one of many. My area is actually family consumer sciences. And along with that, I manage our curriculum as well as our record keeping program I work with are scholarships and then several of our statewide events.

Jessica :   1:53
So why don't you tell me a little bit about you, your background, education? How you came into this position?  

Mindy Turner:   1:59
Okay. I am a native New Mexican. I grew up in Carlsbad. I was Eddy County 4-Her, for all of the years that I could be, in Eddy County 4-Her. I went from there to Texas Tech, where I received a bachelor's degree in family studies and human sciences. I was recruited from there into Texas Extension, where I worked for, just short, well, just over five years, I guess, and decided to move home back to New Mexico. Within that time, I worked in Texas. I worked on my masters, have a master's in counseling, psychology, specializing in marriage and family. So obviously I have a heart for families and youth and relationships. How those things work. And that's a natural fit, I think, for 4-H. So from there I came, I was in Otero County for about two years when the person in this position took early retirement and I was asked to apply, not knowing exactly what would happen from there and that was just almost 18 years ago.  

Jessica :   3:01

Mindy Turner:   3:01
I've been in this position in the state 4-H office. So this is my career. This is what I do. And I still believe it's an extremely important thing. I have two children of my own, and that's the benefit I see in having come through this program and having been so ingrained in it is getting to see my children reap the benefits and the values that I know 4-H  has available and being able to maintain and offer that to families across New Mexico.

Jessica :   3:30
That's amazing! I really like that that you're able to see it full circle. You experienced it, taught it, now your kids are living it, and you're getting to see the whole full circle. It's a fun, fun thing. So can you tell us a little bit about your job? What exactly your job is, what you do. I know that's a lot of different things. So we're gonna try to smash it all in. 

Mindy Turner:   3:53
As a youth development program 4-H is designed to reach youth from kindergarten all the way through high school. So we do that in several different ways. I work with all of the different delivery modes in that I provide things for our, what we would consider to be our club model that they're working with volunteers. They're enrolled in a year long program or they complete projects as well as school enrichment that we offer through classrooms and schools and special interest programming that we do after school, outside of school time camps things along those lines. So work with all of those areas. I do work also with our curriculum development, providing subject matter and curriculum for all of those different areas. So I have a lot of opportunity to see lots of kids in different settings. Youth around the state and where my heart is I think at this point is providing training, working with our professionals all across the state. We have agents in all 33 counties who are managing, working with 4-H youth development programs, and they need skills in order to train volunteers, and work with youth. So I think that's a unique opportunity that we get in the specialist role.

Jessica :   5:01
I definitely need more skills I can always use more skills.  

Mindy Turner:   5:05
Everyone can use more skills.     They told me, after all of this time in this job, I learn something new, pretty much every day. I get taught, some of it I'm taught by my own children. It's not always a good thing, but, yes, yes, I learn something new pretty much every day, and I think that's how that's what keeps it interesting. That's what keeps us loving this job. Everybody has a little burn out now and then, but when you really love what you do, and you really see that there's value in it.  I think that keeps you going until you can get past that rough patch and be where you need to be. So I get to do some very unique things in,  I've worked with our state wide leadership teams working with the teens. Currently my major events just out of the new one I'll talk about in just a minute, but my major event is what we call home economics school, we determined its been, this will be the 11th or 12th (I always have to count) one that we've offered. So we determined at that time, along with the agents in those areas, that one of the things we were lacking was statewide opportunity outside of just our indoor exhibits and what we're taking to the fair's in our different project areas. And we determined that one of things we could do would be this home economic school. So we offer, its basically two nights, two and 1/2 days of intense training, in some subject matter area. The kids select what track they want to participate in.  

Jessica :   6:27
So the kids get to chose what they want.  

Mindy Turner:   6:29
They get to choose what they want to do at that event. We have some things that they share and work with us well. And so we also then offer a leadership opportunity to our high school age members, where they can come and serve as junior instructors, working with an agent or a volunteer who has an expertise in a certain area. They assist, so they learn along with them while teaching the younger members. And then we've added in the last three years we've had so many teens who want to come back and help and work with the program, which is amazing, and many of them who started for a lot of them home ec. school was their first event, first time away from home, first time, for any of that, and so they've really grown through the program. So they want to come and take part as those junior instructors. So we've added what we call the rec. team, and they come and they spend time getting training in how to lead songs and how to facilitate activities and put on group activities and work with kids in that setting. And then they lead activities throughout the weekend, and then they're able to take those skills back into their communities and lead in that way.

Jessica :   7:40
So how old are the kids that go to home ec. school?  

Mindy Turner:   7:43
Track participants are our novice and junior members, so there, anywhere from eight years old to 12 years old. And then I said the senior members, who are that 13 and in the 8th grade, all the way through seniors in high school.

Jessica :   7:57
Awesome! And about how many kids throughout the state attend home ec. school?    

Mindy Turner:   8:01
We are because of the nature of the event we have to limit the number that can be in a specific project matter area in order to provide them with a quality educational experience, a safe facility, all of those things that have to be considered. So we run anywhere from 102-125 depending on what the tracks are that we offer, that just about maxes us out on how many I can feed at one time and sit in a room to sit down, because along with that, then we have just about one adult for every 2 to 3 kids. So we have an excellent ratio chaperones and instructors that are there. As part of that event, we a offer training specific for the adults, and then we do a large community service component. So on Saturday, while the kids are involved in their tracks, we train those adult volunteers who are willing on the community service projects that then Sunday morning they help lead for the youth that are there, so typically that event is 200-220 people.

Jessica :   9:09
Wow wow! And about some other state events that you're probably involved with are things like SLR, which is senior leadership retreat, which is for the older 4-H members, which is just kind of their leader leadership type track event that they do. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that event is about what it's designed to do.  

Mindy Turner:   9:31
Senior Leadership Retreat was initially designed to provide training to, as you said, our team members. It's something extra additional that they get to come and be a part of. Some counties may choose to send their county council. Their elected officers. Some counties just open it up and say anybody who's interested in learning about how to be a leader, being part of 4-H and going to a dance, come on.  Get in the van and let's go! 

Jessica :   9:55
That's us there in Grant County. We just open it up, if you want to go we're gonna figure out how to get you there.   

Mindy Turner:   10:00
So each county kinda has a different selection process for that. But so throughout the weekend, it's actually put on by other teams in the state. Our leadership team puts that event on, and so they select the workshops. They put together what's going to be taught. They lead and teach events. They host the sessions, so there's a lot of things that go on and happen as a component of that event and one of the things we have tried to do, we've put it on basically a three year cycle, doing different types of career education, career readiness. We've had some different tours. We took everyone to campus at NMSU a couple of years ago, where they got to explore and learn about different career options and what departments we even have there that they could come and be a part of. If they decided to go to college. We brought in a lot of the instructors last year, some related to trades, some related to again, college readiness, career type things. And then this coming year, they're going to do a lot of soft skills training related to how to write their resume, how to do an interview, how to give customer service, things that employers are really looking for. That we know 4-H offers an avenue to train and teach kids that a lot of other places just aren't doing.

Jessica :   11:19
That stuff is just so necessary. Just because when you come out of high school and you're gonna go into a college, trade, get your job after you graduate, you've gotta be able to market yourself. And if you can't do that on a piece of paper, that's the first thing people see. They see your name and your qualifications on paper, and if you can't stand out on paper, you just kind of go in the no pile and you don't even get a chance to physically  be present for them. So this is awesome that these 4-H members are able to gain these, you know, qualities and skills and be able to, be able to have those kind of in their back pocket. So whenever they get out of high school they're already ready to go, they're gonna be far and  away ahead of their peers for these jobs and colleges and tracks that's their going to be going through in their lives, it's amazing. Another, another big event, is also state conference, which is kind of the state competition for all of our 4-H members (our senior 4-H members) where they get to go and compete in a lot of different contests. So can you tell us a little bit about the contests and the workshops and all the things that go on and at state conference?

Mindy Turner:   12:36
Definitely. State conference is a little longer event than most of our others. They actually come to campus at NMSU. They spend three and 1/2 sometimes four days, depending on their travel time and how they have to work to get there. The essential elements that we are, we know youth need, one of the major one of those is mastery. They need the opportunity to master a skill, and that's what these competitive events allow them to do. They're working toward a subject matter area, that they care about, that their passionate about, something they want to take and use. And we're giving them an avenue to show what they know, to learn it better, to work a little harder. And we're also giving them the opportunity to belong. Belonging is another one of those essential elements. And so when you say okay, you're part of a team, this is your team and you're gonna work together and you're going to support each other and encourage each other. And then, then they come there and they see that they're part of this even bigger program that all of these counties are here and they brought their teams. And so I think state conference is one of those events that it's a lot. It's a lot. We go home tired, everyday. By the end we are exhausted and the kids are asleep in the car, and I've had people tell me, "Oh, no, we make them stay awake." I'm like "why?" It's quiet if they're sleeping!" I'm ready for the quiet too. But what we see in those youth and again the opportunity to see the same ones who come back year after year and how they improve and how they get better at what they're doing. And so we offer a range of contests in different subject matter areas. We have, of course, our agriculture related livestock, horse, judging and meats. I can list them all if I get them in alphabetical order, because that's how my list usually look, as well as our family and consumer science related ones. We have bowl competitions where they study, and it's a quiz bowl format. They use buzzers and answer questions, as well as things like our fashion revue, where they've actually sewn and completed their own garments, and then they model those and complete an interview, to public speaking and presentations where they've chosen a topic that they're interested in and want to do and they learn how to communicate that to judges and a room full of people, as well as a talent show where they can showcase, hey, I really want to be a singer. This is something I'm good at, our maybe not so good at. But this is an opportunity for me to do that. And so the counties qualify their members to come in whatever competition area. And again we have so many options. We have Entomology. We have horticulture. There's something just about for everybody that has an interest in and wants to be a part of it that we can offer that and this seeing them grow and how they may be when they came that first time as an eighth grader, they didn't really know and they didn't really get it. And now they're juniors and seniors in high school who are winning scholarships through these competitions. We also, there are several of those competitions that allow for a national component, so if they win in their area, then they have the opportunity to go to a national level competition, in that area.

Jessica :   15:51
So whenever I was growing up and I was a 4-H member, I attended state conference, and that was by far my favorite thing. I did all kinds of different contests. I actually you're gonna laugh when I tell you this, I did the fashion modeling one I don't remember what that's called but I did that one time, because I was rebelling against livestock judging [laughing]  which is really where I should be. But I had decided that I was like, "no, I'm not doing livestock judging I have to be able to be, you know, I could be good at something else. We don't even know yet." Anyway, I did fashion magic, I think, is what it's called. And you would never think that of me I'm not a very fashionable person, not a model...

Mindy Turner:   16:34
I think you're fashionable enough. That just doesn't seem like it would be your interest.  

Jessica :   16:38
Yeah, but the friends that I made through those years I'm still friends with now, Um, some of my best friends in college were all people that I met through 4-H and all these contests that I went through in FFA in these youth  programs. It was fun. It was good to go to college and and not be alone. I had friends. I knew people because I knew them in 4-H. So if anything else, that's if that doesn't say enough about the program itself. I mean, I think that speaks volumes. I wouldn't have made it had I not had that background of... I already knew some of these professors. I had seen them before. They had been at 4-H events I had seen, you know, these other 4-H members at these competitions and I was able to make friendships with them. And like I said, I'm still friends with them today. And this is, you know, just just a few years later. [laughter]

Mindy Turner:   17:31
I hear that a lot.

Jessica :   17:31
Just a few years later...just a little, just a few. 

Mindy Turner:   17:35
I hear that a lot and I'm the same way I mean, there are people who now that I work with in my career that I knew as a 4-Her and through state for a conference and participating in those types of events. And so I said, I hear that a lot of how the core of what we're providing are these connections. Where you're connecting to a caring adult, who then can can help you. You're connecting to other youth that as you move throughout life you can go "oh, well, I know somebody who does that, yes, I know about that." And having those types of things to fall back on is huge.

Jessica :   18:11
Yeah, and the scholarships that are offered through some of those contests, I don't know if I just wasn't paying attention back when I was younger I don't remember that part. Or maybe they just...

Mindy Turner:   18:20
I think they were added probably after...

Jessica :   18:22
Probably. I was going to say or maybe I just wasn't good enough to be in that pool of people. [laughter] I don't know. Um I, uh but the kids that I have taken to state conference, several of them have come home with money in their pocket, scholarship money from the different contests that they've been in, because they've been in the top one or two teams or one or two individuals in these contests. And I'm like, "man, I want some of that money too." But they don't give me any, um, anyway, and so it's an amazing thing now that they're able to walk away with those scholarships. And a lot of it's even scholarships to the Ag college there at NMSU. So they already, have a step ahead on those fees and in college can be expensive to pay for. And...

Mindy Turner:   19:14
It adds up quickly.

Jessica :   19:14
Yeah, 4-H is already in front of that offering money like, "hey, we're gonna help you out, you know, come with us, we're gonna help you out." We're gonna give you some money to get you there.  

Mindy Turner:   19:24
And some of that is coming from the fact that these departments, the people who were not just within the College of Ag, but across campus see the value that youth are getting from being part of the 4-H program, and those are the kind of kids they want to be part of their program.

Jessica :   19:42
So real quick, before we end things, you talked about a lot of different state events, and that's really just the tip of the iceberg because they're so many that go on throughout the year. But one thing I wanted to kind of go back to was, you talked about the different delivery modes of 4-H. Everybody just thinks of 4-H as these all the 4-H clubs and everybody has to show an animal. And that is so not what 4-H is. It is so much more. That's a part of it. But it's way more than that. So you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Mindy Turner:   20:15
Yes, We currently have just over 6,000 youth involved in our club program. We have an additional 30,000 youth across the state involved in other types of programming. So whether that's we're providing field trips where we're bringing, typically we have we have several big ones that reach the third and fourth graders where teachers are actually loading them on the bus and bringing them out to an Ag day or Kids, Cows and More program, where they're learning about agriculture, along with family, consumer sciences and leadership and other pieces that we offer traditionally through 4-H, or going into a classroom and working with the teacher and providing that teacher with resources that they might not otherwise get to have. So most of our county offices have incubators that they will take into a classroom and then stock it with eggs and teach those kids how to care for that and what's happening and how that baby chick is developing inside of that egg. And that's a resource that most teachers would not necessarily have the funding or the skills to provide in their classrooms. So school enrichment is a huge part of what we do and being able to supplement what's being done through the schools. We have hardworking teachers. Who are paying for a lot of things out of their pocket, in a hard situation, and even as hard as they work, we still fall to the bottom of the rankings. We are 50th in child, overall child well being and one of the major roles, we have is youth development programs to combat that for our kids and for the youth that we work with. So one way that we do that is to supplement the education they're getting through, and it's not always public school. Sometimes we go into private schools or we have a lot of home school youth who are utilizing our curriculum's as part of their academic classes, and then we also have the option for what we call special interests. So these are things that happen outside of school time that youth might not otherwise get. Sometimes we partner with, let's say, a Boys and Girls Club or after school program that's happening through the "Y" or whatever group that happens to be. That puts that on for a school, but sometimes it's just we're putting that on ourselves. We might offer camp during spring break. Any kid that wants to can come and we're gonna utilize our curriculum's, our projects, to provide training for them and a place for them to go so that it's more than just baby sitting. They're, they're actually engaged in activities...

Jessica :   22:42
and learning something! 

Mindy Turner:   22:43
...and providing, providing those opportunities for them to see "hey, you know, maybe I'm really interested in this" and we run into, you know, we do a lot of things related to agriculture. We do a lot of things related to family and consumer sciences. We see within our programs and the things we provide that we are having an impact on the mental health of youth in ways that maybe other programs don't always have that option, because we are providing that caring adult role for them. We are providing them with connections, to other youth that they may not get to make during school time or even, I mean, I talk to kids all the time, what do you do at recess?" "I sit by myself." But when we're here, we don't do that. You know, if you need that opportunity, to sit by yourself, we do that, but now here's this activity that we can do that we can work on, you're a part of this group, and so we really see kids blossom in those areas. So, ideally, a youth who is involved in a year long project, in a yearlong program is gonna have more opportunity to master that skill to start learning to be a little more independent and carrying out their project and meeting some of those basic needs that our youth have. But we're also through these additional delivery modes, we have an opportunity to take that, or at least a little piece of that to youth who aren't getting it anywhere else.

Jessica :   24:11
So here's one of my last questions, and then we're gonna let everybody know how they could get a hold of you if they have any other questions and how they can get a hold of me, um, this is an interesting question I just thought of, I want you to think of what New Mexico would look like without 4-H. What would New Mexico be like without 4-H?  

Mindy Turner:   24:34
I'm not sure that I can even fathom it, I'm so ingrained. This, what this program offers and does is so ingrained, in everything that I do, and how I work with and what I do with kids, whether it's that I'm going out and teaching within a different group, I'm a club leader myself. But I do see that for sure, there would be 6,000 kids with very different lives, that wouldn't have some of the opportunities for the scholarships. They wouldn't have some of the opportunities to exhibit things that they've created or done to have that pride in a job well done for what they have completed. And then again, there's this additional 30,000 kids who might just get missed in the system. So every child is important. And if we can be that impact for just that one child, then we've accomplished something and so like I said, even even thinking about where we would be at that point is a hard, hard thing. We bring together the county with the state and the research based information and what is available through our land-grant  university, which is of course New Mexico State as well as our federal partners who support the 4-H program. So we're unique in everything that we do. And I think there would definitely be a hole...

Jessica :   26:10
I do too...

Mindy Turner:   26:10
If we weren't here.

Jessica :   26:11
I do too. I think there would be a huge, huge hole and a very negative impact, Um, on our society, the entire world would suffer without 4-H, even in New Mexico. And if there wasn't 4-H around the world and in the United States I think it would be absolutely detrimental. If anybody had any questions or wanted to reach out and talk to you, how could they get a hold of you? 

Mindy Turner:   26:34
The best way to get a hold of, actually any of us within the state 4-H office or to locate your county extension office, and how you can become involved in 4-H in your county is through our website, it is You can also, just to search for New Mexico 4-H, but that's our basic vanity url, I guess that will take you to our home page, which is part of New Mexico State University, from there, there's a place to click on, find your county. There's a place to click on, meet the team where you can see I know some of the other guests, you've interviewed as part of the podcast, as well as myself. I'm Mindy Turner. You can scroll through there and click on that, and you'll, you'll get our phone number, our email address, you'll see, our different subject matter areas. You can see our curriculum vita's what type of experiences we've had, so there's a lot of information to be found just through that page.  If you prefer to just make a phone call, we are located in Las Cruces, but you can call us. We can help you find where your county extension offices is, who you need to contact in your area our number is 575-646-3026

Jessica :   27:46
I also give that phone number out as the complaint department number...

Mindy Turner:   27:52
...and we will take those too, [laughter]we will take those too.

Jessica :   27:55
I always tell people just go ahead and dial that number and you can reach someone there that might be able to help you with your complaints [laughter] they will at least listen to you and get you headed in the right direction. And if you're listening within the Grant County area, I would like to remind you that our enrollment deadline for 4-H is actually coming up. It's December 19th, so if you would like information on how to enroll your child into the 4-H program, you can contact our office at 575-388-1559 And that information is also repeated at the end of this podcast as, well as, some other ways to get a hold of us and follow us. So thank you for being on the podcast.    

Mindy Turner:   0:00
Yes, thank you Jessica, it was wonderful.  

Mindy Turner:   0:00
Thanks everyone for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, don't forget to hit the subscribe button on Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google play, or whatever app you're using to listen to this podcast. Want more information? You can visit us at our website, follow us on Facebook at NMSU, Grant County, CES, Snapchat at Grant County NM 4-H, shoot us an email at or give us a call, (575) 388-1559. 

Jessica :   0:00
New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. 

Jessica :   0:00
Song Credit:

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Mindy Turner:   0:00

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