MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For Michael Withrow, Berkeley County’s newest West Virginia University Extension Service 4-H agent, the notion of education and extension’s role in the community is a classic, timeless combination that he encountered often growing up around agriculture. Now, as he starts his new position, he’s excited to pay it back and create a positive environment for youths in the communities he serves.
“Extension has always been there for me and family — my grandfather was a farmer and relatives owned an orchard, and I always remembered Extension agents there providing hands-on help and advice,” he said. “That taught me not only the value of education, but also the value of taking that education and putting it into the hands of those who need it most.”
Withrow also grew up in WVU Extension Service 4-H programs — although admittedly, he didn’t experience camp until he was about to age out. But it’s there he can pinpoint where he fell in love with the entire scope of what 4-H has to offer. The experience led him to volunteer for the next ten years at the Tri-County 4-H camp in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, helping campers capture the same magic that he experienced.
But now as he comes full circle as Berkeley County’s 4-H agent to coordinate and run the programs, he’s leaning on his inherent desire to educate using it to help the next generation of West Virginians develop friendships, life skills and self-confidence.
When asked about his immediate plans to get started, Withrow noted that he wanted to build a consistent program recruiting pipeline to help numbers grow in the county.
“We have roughly 27 clubs with around 650 members currently and I’d like to see the numbers in school-based 4-H clubs grow,” he said. “I also want to use our teen leaders to not only help recruit a base of younger members, but also teach them about the benefits of 4-H camping, especially at the state level where they can make lifelong friends with their fellow campers and learn from people who come from a variety of diverse backgrounds and experiences — that lesson is very, very important to becoming a well-rounded individual.”
Withrow emphasized his true passion is having a positive influence on students and in turn, his community. The past couple years he taught middle school agriculture and natural resources at Wildwood Middle School and worked with students in the FFA program. He also has his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WVU in agriculture and extension education.
Brent Clark, the director of the WVU Extension Service 4-H Youth Development program, said the formal experience, paired with his 4-H enthusiasm, will help him successfully lead Berkeley County’s 4-H’ers.
“We’re excited for Michael to start. In working closely with students, not only as a West Virginia 4-H volunteer, but also as a teacher, he’s got a great base of experience and tools to use to stay true to the 4-H motto and truly make the best better,” he said.
For more than a century, 4-H has focused on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship and natural sciences. Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities also exist in subjects like rocketry, robotics, biofuels, renewable energy and computer science.
To learn more about new opportunities in the 4-H program, visit www.extension.wvu.edu, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service. Keep up with the latest in WVU Extension news on Facebook and Twitter by following @WVUExtension.