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"I love helping people reach their full potential and every part of my job gives me opportunities to do that."

I recently spoke with Nicole Pokorney, an Extension educator based in Rochester. She is passionate about youth development and believes that just a little bit of passion can fuel a fire of transformation. Here's a peek into our conversation.

Extension educator Nicole Pokorney
Erin Kelly-Collins: How did you first get connected to Extension and 4-H?
Nicole Pokorney: I was only in 4-H for one year growing up, but was very connected to the University of Minnesota Extension through my mom. She was a Master Gardener where we lived in Chisago County. I remember monthly visits to the local Extension office. Mom was always looking for resources to understand the land and garden more effectively. I grew up surrounded by the positive impacts of Extension.

EKC: Tell me a little about how you came to work for Extension 4-H.
NP: After working for many years as a youth minister, I earned a Master's degree in school counseling. I had it in my mind that I'd enjoy working for 4-H, but had to wait for the right opportunity. I accepted this role as Extension educator 10 ½ years ago now.

EKC: What do you love about your work?
NP: There is a lot I love about working for Extension. I love helping people reach their full potential and every part of my job gives me opportunities to do that. Whether it’s managing the 4-H Shooting Sports & Wildlife program, supervising local staff, or serving on the Citizenship & Leadership state team, I get to support and encourage youth and adults to grow and learn. I love the academic connection that our work has because we’re part of the U of M. Being research based is important. My job includes the outdoors, leadership, camp… Everything I’m passionate about is a part of this job.

EKC: You’ve been doing youth work for a long time. What have you learned?
NP: You’re right. It really has been a long time. What most stands out in my 24 years of youth work is that caring adults are integral. Our youth need more than one adult, including parents, friends, and mentors, to invest and believe in them. Caring adults are just so very important in the lives of our youth.

EKC: Why do you think Extension is a good place to invest your professional efforts?
NP: Your question makes me think of this quote from Simon Sinek. "Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion." In Extension, we are able to work within our passions and can grow them to do good work for Minnesotans and people across our country. We have the ability and opportunity to grow, build capacity, and influence others. Extension has shown me the value of my work.
Nicole with three 4-H youth

EKC: When you're not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
NP: My husband Patrick and I are outdoors folk. We love to hike, hunt, really anything outside, especially with our boys. And I enjoy planning events that are meaningful and fun. Creating memories and experiences for people is really a pleasure for me.

EKC: What do you hope for the future of 4-H?
NP: I really believe that 4-H can be all-encompassing. What I mean by that is we can be a program for everybody. We can offer high-quality livestock and animal science projects while also connecting youth to other learning experiences like shooting sports or robotics. I love to do it all. Let’s let our youth do it all too. I hope that 4-H will provide experiences for all families in our communities.

Thanks to Nicole for sharing a little of her wisdom and experience.

You can read about other 4-H staff members here.

To find the 4-H staff who work in your community, visit our website.

University of Minnesota
Extension Center for Youth Development

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