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Growing the next generation of leaders in Cottonwood County, Minnesota.

Crystal Reith is the 4-H Program Coordinator in Cottonwood County, Minnesota. But her 4-H roots are across the state line South Dakota. No matter the location, Crystal works tirelessly to grow leaders in her community.

South Dakota grown

The Reith family

Crystal grew up as an active youth leader in her 4-H club and officer for South Dakota 4-H Junior Leaders. She attended and participated in as many things as possible during her 12 years as a 4-H'er. "My family showed beef and swine and we judged everything we could," she remembered fondly. "I had general projects too and really enjoyed photography." She also spent five summers as a Extension 4-H intern in Sioux Falls.

She attended South Dakota State University in Brookings, earning a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Journalism and then went on to receive a master's degree in Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. While at SDSU, she met her husband, a Minnesota native. They eventually moved to Minnesota, where their family runs a cow operation and beef feedlot.

A busy summer for new program opportunities

"It was really nice to find a job with the University of Minnesota Extension," Crystal mentioned. Her love for education and 4-H made the leadership role at Cottonwood County feel familiar from the start. And she's been growing 4-H leaders for almost 12 years now!

There's a unique busyness that comes with being a 4-H program coordinator, especially during the summer. Crystal reflected that although every program coordinator has the same basic position description, each staffer really gets the opportunity to grow the program based on their values and passions. "For me that's establishing more partnerships within the community. Being here so long, I feel like Cottonwood County 4-H has a lot of community and volunteer support that empowers us to accomplish more and offer a lot of variety to local youth."

Crystal teaches youth about pollution with a hands-on demonstration

This summer Cottonwood County 4-H has been busy with events! Supporting a program partner, 4-H'ers volunteered to help the Cottonwood County Cattle Producers as they hosted the State Cattlemen's Tour. Youth also had the opportunity to explore wellness in Food, Fun & Fitness, a 4-H program in collaboration with the Windom Area Hospital and HyVee. University on the Prairie was another experience Crystal coordinated for young people; helping them explore science topics and careers with professors from the University of Minnesota and South Dakota State University.

Mentoring and growing our next leaders

Crystal taking photos at a county event.Can you imagine how one 4-H program coordinator could manage so many learning experiences for youth? And why would anybody want to be so busy? For Crystal, the answer is simple: "4-H gives youth the opportunity to do. They explore different topics and careers and gain lifelong skills," she reflected. "I got so much out of 4-H growing up that I don't think I would've experienced anywhere else. I met friends and traveled. There's a lot of value to the 4-H program and I love working with youth through it."

As Crystal explored career options during college, her Extension internship helped solidify her desire to work with 4-H. Now she works closely with an internship program that helps college students experience the youth development profession.

"Internships give the opportunity for students to work on time management, responsibility and teaching skills like delivering a lesson plan and working with youth," said Crystal. "What I most appreciate about our intern program is the chance to support their growth and letting them take the lead."

Her advice to those interested in the possibility of working with Extension, whether in Minnesota, South Dakota or anywhere else? "Do not be afraid to try something new. You just might love it."

Want to explore programs your county offers?
Learn more about employment with 4-H and other Extension programs.

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

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