Douglas earns spot in 4-H Hall of Fame

Posted: Friday, October 08, 2010

He made a difference in Juneau's youth for 20 years and is now being honored for it.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

Jim Douglas was the local 4-H extension and agriculture agent and held various leadership positions. During this time he developed several programs that touched the lives of numerous children in the program. Today, he's inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in Silver Spring, Md.

4-H is a national youth development program that works in cooperation with land grant universities. Here, it's based in the University of Alaska Fairbanks and works as an arm of the Cooperative Extension Service.

Douglas explained kids six years old through high school partake in a variety of programs designed to enhance development.

Douglas has an extensive resume with 4-H that helped him garner the award. He said all of these had the same goal: to help kids become the best they can.

Some of his achievements since include the UAF for Youth program to promote the connection between the university and youth to legislators during a budget crisis. They gathered signatures to save the university's funding and delivered it to the governor at the capital. Douglas said he was very proud of how this program helped kids get involved in their government.

Other noteworthy achievements include his organization of the State 4-H Horse Development Committee, plus a horse rules manual, training and competition.

The last six years he served as the 4-H agent for the Kodiak District and state 4-H program leader. He also taught classes at the Western Regional 4-H Leaders' Forums and co-chaired it in Alaska in 2004.

Aside from his 4-H involvement, he worked with several nonprofits and youth programs for 20 years, including the Juneau Community Education Advisory Council, the Mayor's Task Force for Youth, and teaching poison and drug education in schools.

He also won the Emil Usibelli Award in 2002 for service to UAF. He was awarded emeritus status in 2004.

Douglas retired and moved to Virginia in 2004. He still helps 4-H with demonstrations.

Douglas and current 4-H extension and agriculture agent Darren Snyder both explained 4-H here is different than in other places because it's designed around specifically for kids living in Juneau. Douglas said most 4-H programs involve agriculture, which is not prevalent here.

"One of the big programs is the outdoors skills program. It teaches them all different skills, and I gave them leeway to do what they needed to do," he said.

He said this program emphasizes things like running, hiking, sailing, cross-country skiing, working with small animals and even some hunting.

He said the outdoor skills program became a national model.

"It's an old program, but the thing I see is it's more relevant today than it ever was," said Douglas. He said this relevance relates to helping local kids appreciate the outdoor environment Juneau offers while combating childhood obesity. He said it can be difficult for many kids around here to get motivated on their own to get outdoors.

"If I'm proud of anything it's these kids learning to be true Alaskans, to appreciate Alaska even when the weather was lousy," he said.

Douglas said another great pleasure was watching the program grow in Juneau. He said there were around 56 kids when he came onboard in 1984. By the time he retired there were around 600. Snyder said that number has maintained since.

Snyder cited more program examples in Juneau's 4-H, like karate, the horse club and shooting sports. He said that while most of the activities don't focus on agriculture, they do work with community gardens.

"4-H is all about positive youth development," said Snyder, emphasizing the main points being building a sense of belonging, skills mastery, independence and generosity.

Douglas extended his thanks to all his fellow 4-H members, leaders and parents for their support in his career.

"I also would like to thank the many youth - now adults - who served as camp counselors during the 18 years we held camp. Watching them work with kids was one of the highlights of my time in Juneau."

For more information on 4-H call 796-6221.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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