May 29, 2020 10:04 AM

Kansas 4-H kicks off inaugural virtual Discovery Days

Posted May 29, 2020 10:04 AM

Keynote speaker urges youth to ‘find a job you love’

K-State Research & Extension

MANHATTAN – Jill Brown is plenty happy with her job as a career counselor for high school and college youth, but she admitted to Kansas 4-H members on Wednesday that she had at least a couple of other preferred professions growing up.

“Well, honestly, I enjoyed being in the bunny business a bit too much,” Brown said, showing pictures of herself in an Easter Bunny costume as both a child and an adult.

“But my dream job,” she added as she flipped to her next slide, “is petting puppies.”

Brown kicked off the 96th annual Kansas 4-H Discovery Days on May 27 with a keynote address that blended equal parts of energy and humor. The annual event is being held virtually for the first time ever due to Kansas State University’s limited operations status and social distancing measures enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 300 Kansas youth registered for this year’s 4-H Discovery Days, according to Dona Ratliff, the program coordinator with the Kansas 4-H Youth Development office. More than 120 youth were online to hear Brown’s opening talk. The event is being held May 27-29 via Zoom.

“My grandpa, who worked at a radio station up to the age of 93, once told me to find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” said Brown, who is the director of partnerships and placement at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri.

“As a kid, I found that pretty daunting, right? I thought, ‘what am I going to do? What does that job look like?’”

Brown fell into an early job using her passion to talk and meet people.

“I was asked to be an announcer during the steer show at the Nebraska State Fair,” she said. “So, I was able to have a microphone in my hand and talk…and get paid for it.”

Later, she landed a job at a local television station – “it was Valentine’s Day and apparently everyone else was busy,” she said – eventually leading her to higher education, where she is able to guide youth toward their own passion.

“I’ve spent my entire life using my gift of gab to tell agriculture’s story, higher education’s story, my story,” she said.

Brown listed seven ideas she uses to help youth find their own calling:

  1. Pursue activities that interest you. What are those things that get you out of bed in the morning and make you want to be involved?
  2. Look for opportunities all around you. The Internet allows many opportunities to find out what a business does. Or, stop in and ask local shop owners about their business. “Often times, we discover worlds that we didn’t even know existed.”
  3. Job shadowing. Ask someone in a job you’re curious about if you can spend a morning or afternoon with them. “People are passionate about their work and they want to share their job with you.”
  4. Find a mentor. Brown says this is someone you can look up to, can provide guidance, and you can call when you have questions. “You might find mentors at your high school, in your extension office…or just about anywhere.”
  5. Volunteer. It’s a great way to learn more about an area you may be interested in, Brown said, and it’s a great way to boost your spirits and have a better day.
  6. Get involved in your community. Attend local events and meet people you haven’t met before. Read your local newspaper and go to local board meetings.
  7. Ask social media. Social media is a great way to let a lot of people know about what you want to do. “You’ll be surprised how much people want to help you.”

Brown encouraged youth to travel, keep a “me” file of positive notes or reports they’ve received, and be curious.

“There is no reason to know everything you are going to do in the future,” she said. “Curiosity will look different to all of us. Keep a list of what you want to do and make time to go do those things that interest you.”

Wade Weber, the state program leader for Kansas 4-H, said Brown’s keynote address “set a positive tone” for Discovery Days.

“Jill is an effective speaker and brought an intentional energy and enthusiasm to this virtual venue,” he said.

In addition to Brown’s keynote address, youth were able to choose among a dozen live presentations and many more recorded sessions during this year’s virtual Kansas 4-H Discovery Days.

The live presentations have been recorded and are available – along with the pre-recorded sessions – on the Kansas 4-H Discovery Days website.

“We worked really hard to provide college and career readiness type sessions,” Ratliff said. “We asked presenters to target their sessions to match the different departments at Kansas State University, and how these could prepare youth for the future.”

She added it took a mighty effort by many to provide a quality online experience for this year’s Discovery Days.

“This could not have come together without all of our 4-H staff, agents and presenters,” Ratliff said. “I hope that all participants get something positive out of this.”