NEW MADRID - Fishing every day - it sounded pretty good before he retired said Charles Reaves. But after weeks of casting his line into the water for days on end, he just wasn't hooked on it.
Reaves, who had worked in education for over 30 years including his last 16 as principal at Morehouse Elementary School, began fishing for a new line of work. In October, he landed a job with the University of Missouri Extension Service as their 4-H Youth Specialist.
It is a career move that enables Reaves to make use of his educational background, his devotion to young people and even his rural roots, which include growing up at Gideon and participating in 4-H as a youngster.
"It is much more than I thought," admitted Reaves about his new job. As principal, he explained, he was the instructional leader for the building but as extension specialist he is expected to get out into the community to talk with school leaders, parents and students to find out what programs they want. He then works to fill those needs.
Reaves works with 4-H Clubs in New Madrid, Dunklin, Pemiscot and Mississippi counties. Also he has found he particularly enjoys promoting the Extension programs available to schools in the area, assisting with promotion of things like Earth Day and farm safety or learning activities such as embryology or soil conservation.
Many of their programs, he said, can be related to the skills needed for students to be successful in Missouri Assessment Program testing.
Reaves also points to the number of programs available to youngsters participating in 4-H. From its days of primarily appealing to rural youngsters interested in sewing or showing farm animals, 4-H has continued these activities while adding everything from aerospace to fly fishing to clowning.
Youngsters can even create their own programs.
"We want to make it something young people like to do," explained Reaves.
Apparently his efforts are paying off. New Madrid County has almost 70 youngsters involved in 4-H with a commitment from an adult to create a new club in the county. Another 65 young people in Mississippi County are taking part and 55 to 60 in Dunklin County. In Pemiscot County, there is interest in creating a new 4-H club there too.
"You don't have to live on a farm to be in 4-H," he said pointing out that the clubs are located in many of the small towns in Southeast Missouri. "I would like to promote 4-H to the point that 4-H is again a common word in the Bootheel. That when you think about youth programs what comes to mind is Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H."
He would like to have more adult volunteers interested in 4-H too.
"We are dealing with a time when we need to develop new 4-H clubs but we are also struggling with parents who are both working and don't have a lot of extra time to give," he said.
To recruit volunteers, he talks to them about the rewards of being a volunteer and points out the past successes of 4-H clubs. Reaves readily talks about the volunteers who are instrumental in the current 4-H clubs.
"I have met some of the neatest people - people who have had 20, 30, 48 years experience in helping in 4-H," he said.
"These people are doing this to help kids. They can still come to meetings, still be positive. They understand that time spent with our children is important. Children need to belong to a group and 4-H is a good group to belong to, it keeps young people going in a positive direction."
To learn more about 4-H, contact the University of Missouri Extension Service.