FRENCH LICK, Ind. — Renee K. McKee, assistant director and 4-H youth development program leader with Purdue Extension, and Roy Ballard, retired Purdue Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Hancock County, received the 2019 Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to the Rural People of Indiana. The award is presented annually to Purdue faculty or staff who have displayed outstanding educational service to rural Indiana.
McKee was recognized for her selfless dedication to Purdue Extension 4-H for the past 42 years. Her efforts have expanded 4-H youth development programs from rural settings to urban areas and introduced new educational initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), youth mentoring, sustainable communities and many others.
“As I worked at the local community level, I saw young people grow and develop and then launch into adulthood many times focused on interests they developed as participants in the 4-H program.” McKee added that while her personal 4-H experience originally drew her to her career, her priority has been to find creative ways to evolve the program to provide appropriate 4-H experiences to the youth today.
McKee led the creation of the 4-H Teens as Teachers program, which is now being used as a model in additional states. The program provides teens with lessons and tools needed to teach youth and adults in their communities about biotechnology, animal biosecurity, healthy living, teen leadership and computer coding.
“4-H is a program that is focused on developing the skills and abilities of the young people we serve — for their futures. Young people aren’t cut from cookie cutters and we have to assure we offer a breadth of opportunities and interests as we strive to grow the program to new audiences of both volunteers and youth,” McKee said.
Ballard recently retired from his role as Purdue Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in Hancock County, where he made a significant impact.
“It has been an honor to have had the opportunity to serve the residents of Indiana and a privilege to serve alongside so many other members of the Purdue Extension team as well as representatives of many service minded agencies and organizations both in Indiana and beyond,” Ballard said.
Throughout his career, Ballard displayed his passion for rural Indiana residents through his impact in many organizations including the Indiana Grown Commission, Hoosier Harvest Market and his development of FoodLink, an online tool used to support and educate consumers on high nutritional value-related food decisions. For the past 10 years, he has served as the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) state coordinator for Indiana, successfully overseeing the program to support sustainable agriculture professional development and extension programs in Indiana.
“Never have the residents of rural Indiana needed the time, talent and resources of agencies in a coordinated, selfless and sustained manner more than right now,” Ballard added. “The loss of sustainable farm income, the need for additional focus on regenerating our soils and preserving other aspects of our environment, and the diversification of farms and food systems are perhaps only matched by the need to identify and support our next generation of farmers who are our hope of uninterrupted supply of safe and plentiful food, fuel and fiber for Indiana.”
The Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence was presented to McKee and Ballard on Dec. 13 (Friday) at the Indiana Farm Bureau convention in French Lick, Ind. The award, sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau Inc., has been given annually since 1972 in recognition of Purdue’s seventh president, who served from 1946 to 1971.
— Purdue University Agriculture News
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