Presidential Award of Excellence
4-H Youth Development
“I don't teach
now in a formal classroom,” she explains,
in the community.”
According to Deb Cheever, her job is built around relationships, and a look at her résumé certainly bears this out. As one of 16 University 4-H county-based extension staff in New Hampshire, she has administered the Merrimack County 4-H program for 28 years and annually manages more than 200 volunteers who, in turn, reach hundreds of youth every year. She also oversees three county-wide volunteer boards and collaborates with other UNH Cooperative Extension staff and specialists on volunteer administration; youth development; and children, youth, and family issues.
“Some people I started with are still involved in our program here,” Cheever says. “More than 40 percent of our volunteers have been here five or more years–two years more than the national average. We have a very good retention rate, and that creates stability, a sound foundation, and the opportunity to accomplish one of our 4-H goals, which is youth development.”
For several years, Cheever also served on the Steering Committee of the Governor's Office on Volunteerism, and, as chair, helped plan state recognition events. She is also a member of both state and national associations of extension 4-H agents, and has served in elected positions at the state level.
She has a personal commitment to improve and advance the profession of volunteer administration. She also has served on the New England Task Force for Workforce Preparation as well as countless committees and work groups.
The mother of a son, Jason, and a daughter, Jennifer, Cheever did not set out to work in 4-H, or with volunteers. She had other plans.
She shares the story with the young people she counsels. “At first I thought I wanted to be a dental hygienist. I liked the idea of such a clean environment. Then someone gave me some sage advice to make an appointment and visit a practicing dental hygienist. When I did, I realized that the work wasn't for me.”
Cheever received her degree in home economics from Keene State College, and applied for two jobs after graduation–one, a teaching position in Pittsfield, N.H., and the other, the job she holds today. “My dad encouraged me to take this one,” she recalls. “He said it would be great, and it is. No day is ever the same. Deep down I feel I'm an educator, and 4-H is a youth development program. I don't teach now in a formal classroom,” she explains,
“I teach in the community.”
- Mary Peterson