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"I volunteer because in 4-H, no matter what you're interested in, you can find a place to belong, work hard, and experience success."

Jeff with his wife and daughters
Jeff Eibler is in his 15th year as a 4-H volunteer.

He first signed up to volunteer at the request of his wife, Jan. She wanted to be sure that their three young daughters could experience 4-H near their home in International Falls, Minnesota.

"I didn't know much about it at first, but came along for the ride. Once I became a volunteer, I started looking for ways to contribute. Since I was interested in dogs, the dog project seemed like a good option."

After Jeff and his girls explored the 4-H Dog Project for a few years, they discovered Minnesota 4-H's Project Bowl program. This series of regional and state competitions challenges teams of youth on their knowledge of 4-H project areas. Teams are asked questions and buzz in to give their best response.

"Our first year we had two junior teams in the dog project area. Both experienced success at the regional competition, but got hammered at state. We all came back with our tails dragging. But let me tell you, getting beat is a great motivator."

Jeff and a 4-H youth drafting a grant proposal
Jeff and the youth he coached that first year weren't ready to give up. In fact, most of those first team members came back for second try. They wanted to learn more and do better. And better they did.

Ten years later, Jeff has coached numerous teams in International Falls and Ely, where his family now lives. Each year he's become a more effective coach and the youth on his teams continue to show commitment, teamwork, and a lot of enthusiasm.

"There's something about that buzzer system that works magic on kids. They are competitive and excited to learn. Youth reap what they sow in project bowl. If they know the material, they get to buzz in with confidence and really have a fun time."

Jeff's youngest daughter is nearing the end of her 4-H years, but dad has no intention of giving up volunteering with 4-H. He's proud to be part of a program that helps youth understand that preparation makes a big difference in a person's success.

"I love helping kids prepare and then watching them succeed. And like my wife always tells me, kids need to belong. It's true. In 4-H, no matter what you're interested in, you can find a place to belong, work hard, and experience success."

When Jeff isn't volunteering for 4-H, you can find him working as a fish biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He occasionally has time to work on remodeling projects and loves spending time on the water. He and his wife Jan are the proud parents of three fabulous young women, Hailey, Kelsey, and Cari.

Learn more about 4-H Project Bowl and view recent team photos.

Explore 4-H Dog Project information and resources.

University of Minnesota
Extension Center for Youth Development

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