Columbia County Extension agent Shirley Williamson recently received statewide recognition for her work with 4-H youths.
Williamson won the Northeast District William H. Booth Award, which honors extension agents for exemplary work with young people in the 4-H program.
The award is named for a founder and 15-year general manager of Jackson Electric Membership Corp. and a rural electric pioneer who helped form the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Oglethorpe Power Corp.
Extension agents are nominated by their peers for the award. They undergo an extensive application and interviewing.
"Once you are recognized by your peers as being successful or having a program that is doing what it's supposed to be doing for young people, it makes you feel really good inside," Williamson said.
The agent, who participated in 4-H as a child in Wilkes County, has worked with the 4-H extension program for 18 years. She said this was the fourth time she had been nominated for the Booth Award.
Bo Ryles, the state 4-H leader and director, said in a prepared statement that the award is "the highest recognition we bestow" on a 4-H agent.
"These agents are always about helping children and youth get recognition and awards. This is the one time we can turn the spotlight on the person who is typically behind the scenes," he said.
Williamson said that 4-H programs are geared to meet the needs of young people in a particular county and that the Columbia County program focuses on service, leadership, citizenship and public speaking.
Her character education projects with 4-H youths include the Salvation Army "Pounds of Pennies" red kettle fund drive; the collection of aluminum can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House Charities; a partnership with Columbia County Clean and Beautiful to turn about 3,000 Christmas trees into mulch; and the provision of more than two tons of pet food for the Columbia County Humane Society, Happy Tails and Heartsong animal rescue groups.
Her classroom programs include three volunteer-led clubs -- Clay Pigeon Target Sports, a bunny club and a horse club.
"Every single day is just an eye-opening experience working with young people," Williamson said.
The 4-H program is open to students in grades five through 12, and Williamson said it is gratifying to watch adolescents grow and develop through the years. She said she enjoys seeing students who attend different schools working together.
"One of the greatest things about 4-H is getting along with others, being part of a team," she said.
Williamson led classes and workshops at the Georgia Governors Youth Summit in 2006, and she was selected to be on the college of Family and Consumer Sciences' Georgia Banner program on Health and Wellness.
She was on the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents planning committee and served as a hospitality co-chairwoman for the 2007 meeting. She also is a past president of the Georgia Association of Extension 4-H Agents.
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