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Overcoming obstacles, growing a career and giving back to a community

Abby and her parents
Abby Donkers is the summer intern for Rice County 4-H.

There are 87 counties in the state of Minnesota. What were the odds that Abby would get to be a 4-H summer intern at her home county's Extension office? Not as likely as you'd think!

It's rare for interns to work with their home county, they're usually placed somewhere new. For that reason, Abby's doing everything she can to help improve programs, plan events and connect with youth. She wants to give her absolute best to the program that's given her so much.

Building leadership and career skills

4-H partners with counties across Minnesota to provide college students with summer internships alongside local program coordinators. Responsibilities vary by county, but Abby's role has her attending 4-H camps and helping coordinate activities and programs throughout the summer. She is also engaged in planning and preparing all 4-H aspects of the Rice County Fair.

This work takes a lot of organization, attention to detail and perseverance. Abby loves it all. "When you're in 4-H, you don't know how everything comes together. But when you're a staff member it's really eye opening to see how stuff is done and how deadlines are so important."

Working with her county's program coordinator Kelly Chadwick, Abby gets a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to plan and execute 4-H's many summer events and learning experiences. Abby's hands are full lining up interview information, finding judges, planning talent performances and working at livestock shows.

"I find it really insightful to see how the fair comes together. The stressful times are some of the best for building teamwork. That's what makes it great! In 4-H, there's definitely no 'I' in team."

Overcoming obstacles to help others

Abby and her sheep
Abby grew up in 4-H. Beginning as a 5-year-old Cloverbud, she explored everything from sewing, crafts and foods, to sports and raising sheep and goats. In eighth grade she joined the Rice County 4-H ambassadors, a group of youth volunteers who assist with county events and work with youth to promote the skills 4-H helps grow. During her senior year, Abby attended 4-H's national citizenship experience called Citizenship Washington Focus. She spent a week in Washington D.C. to learn about the federal government and meet with members of congress to advocate for youth development and Minnesota 4-H.

Abby's been a go-getter from the start. Being born with Spina Bifidia, she has never let anything slow her down. Despite requiring a wheelchair to get around, she's always taking on new tasks and finding ways to grow and develop her skills and strengths.
Abby credits 4-H with providing her opportunities to overcome obstacles and do what she loves. "I'm really happy and thankful to be in a role now that allows me to give back and help others."

Growing a career in an organization that built her

Abby is studying agricultural leadership at South Dakota State University and aspires to have a career with 4-H. Summer internships provide Abby and other college students with insight on the day-to-day work of youth development professionals.

"I've always looked up to people in this work," reflected Abby. "I love the educational foundation in 4-H and I'm grateful for the experiences it gave me as a member. I want to be able to help create that experience for others!"
Abby and fellow 4-H'ers at the MN State Fair

Abby highly recommends the summer internship program for people who want to learn about the career and leadership opportunities in Extension. "Interns do a lot of programming and education too. 4-H is a large and well-known organization and things change from year-to-year. You're never going to have a boring day in the office, that's for sure!"

Meet other Minnesota 4-H staff.

By Mariah Jean Larson
University of Minnesota student
Steele County 4-H alum 

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