Bertie welcomes 4-H Agent

Published 4:44 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

WINDSOR – After a two-year vacancy in the position, Bertie County Cooperative Extension finally has a person to step into the role of 4-H Agent.

Toniqua Young, a former schoolteacher who grew up in Bertie County, began her new job in January.

“We’re just excited to have Toniqua join our staff, and we look forward to serving the youth in the county,” said Bertie Cooperative Extension Director Billy Barrow, who noted that her prior experience working with youth will be an asset to her position.

4-H is a program for young people to provide them with fun learning experiences that will also help them develop skills for the future. The four H’s are “Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.”

The annual 4-H Livestock show – which draws in youth from Bertie, Hertford, and Northampton counties – is one of the first things that comes to mind when discussing 4-H, but Young emphasized that the program offers so many other learning opportunities too. Since she began work, she’s already started talking to the local youth to figure out what kinds of different things they’re interested in.

“A lot of the kids in our community want to do STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math),” she said.

As a part of Cooperative Extension, she’ll be able to bring in programs from both NC State University and NC A&T State University to find the right balance of agriculture and STEM activities for 4-H participants to enjoy.

“I can’t do everything for everybody, but I want to find things that are inclusive of everybody,” Young said.

Along with her teaching background, Young has a variety of experiences she’ll draw from in her position. She’s a former 4-H participant herself, starting first in elementary school and then joining again in her last two years of high school. She recalled doing a backpack program and making cards for the elderly as a few examples of their activities.

One of her goals as 4-H agent is to make sure the students get a wide variety of experiences. Not every kid wants to go to college, so she wants to make sure they’re also getting exposed to trades and technical careers as options as well.

She recalled, for example, taking an EMS course in high school. Once she completed it, however, she’d learned that the medical field was not something she wanted to pursue. But it was a lesson learned that she was able to take with her going forward.

Young has already started working towards planning summer activity programs, such as swim camp and cooking camp. And based on student interests, they’ll also form clubs for the 4-H participants. She’s looking for volunteers that are willing to help out with those initiatives.

“I know there’s a lot of people in the community that are skilled a different things. I want to collaborate with those in the community so that they can create those clubs for the kids,” she explained. “I think if we can get more volunteers from the community, it’ll bring more people into the 4-H program.”

She hopes to also build community partnerships to strengthen the program.

“We have a lot of resources [in the community.] If we can’t give them something, there are other resources we can reach out to,” Young added.

“I’m trying to find the middle ground. I want to make sure they have fun, but it’s also a learning experience,” she concluded.

Enrollment is currently open for the 4-H program, and those interested can sign up online. More information is available at Bertie County’s Cooperative Extension website: bertie.ces.ncsu.edu