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Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Volunteering with 4-H keeps us vibrant and engaged."

Brad and Teresa Schmidt
4-H Shooting Sports & Wildlife volunteers
Douglas County
Meet the Schmidt's.

Brad and Teresa are volunteers with Minnesota 4-H's Shooting Sports and Wildlife program.

Although it's been years since their son and daughter were young enough to be in 4-H, they remain faithful volunteers in Douglas County.

Each year, they equip nearly 100 youth and their families with confidence, respect, and a deep love for the great outdoors.

"I enjoy it! Our family was brought up to help others out," said Brad. "And a lot of kids in our area don't have many opportunities to be outside and do outdoor activities. We help youth get involved and learn a lot."

When Teresa and Brad first agreed to be 4-H Shooting Sports and Wildlife volunteers, there were only three local youth interested, their son Josh and two of his friends. They were a hunting family and were familiar with gun safety, but didn't have much knowledge about fishing, conservation, or how to engage youth effectively. They were willing to learn, however, and had great support from local staff. This ended up being all they really needed.


“We realized it was time to step up and give it a try," said Teresa. "We started by talking to Jodi [4-H staff] about leading and then signed up for a training. Every year we learn something new that helps us be better leaders, like how to build partnerships or get adults more involved.”

Brad helping 4-H'er Camryn
prepare practice targets
Brad is especially excited to help parents connect with their children through 4-H experiences. He said that many parents start out feeling intimidated, but are also curious about what their youth are learning.

“After I mingle with parents for a while, I’ll sneak in a homework assignment that gets them involved with their kids. As parents learn, they want to participate more. Building confidence in parents is important to moving them toward formal volunteering.”

This strategy for parent engagement has worked well for Teresa and Brad. They now have 13 fellow adult volunteers who are equally passionate about giving youth opportunities to learn and grow. The Schmidt’s also mentor youth who want to use their skills to encourage and serve those around them.

“Our kids have lots of opportunities to give back to the community. We help them host an annual senior fishing day, volunteer at local sportsman events, and build leadership skills through our ambassador program and attending state and national shoots.”

Volunteering with 4-H has built a multi-generational community for Brad and Teresa. One that is filled with special and long-lasting friendships. They don’t plan on stepping away from that community any time soon.

“If I stop volunteering, who would I be?” Teresa responded when asked about retirement. “I want to keep volunteering so that my grandchildren can join me when they’re ready. This work keeps me vibrant and engaged.”

“We need a village to create good learning experiences for our youth,” said Brad. “I really do love it, even though I don’t show it. And I’ve seen the joy on the kids’ faces. I know they love it too.”

Through their humble leadership, Brad and Teresa are making a difference in the lives of youth and families in Douglas County.


You too can make a difference right where you live. Learn more about volunteering with 4-H.

Discover 4-H Shooting Sports and Wildlife opportunities for you or your child.


Explore other ways to learn, lead and build skills in Minnesota 4-H.

University of Minnesota
Extension Center for Youth Development

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