University of Missouri Texas County Extension director and agronomist Sarah Kenyon, left, stands with new regional 4-H youth development coordinator Janice Emery outside the office on Sam Houston Blvd. in Houston.

In a big step toward improving coordination, organization and promotion of youth 4-H activities, the University of Missouri Texas County Extension has added a full-time specialist dedicated to 4-H.

The new addition is Mountain Grove resident Janice Emery, who began her duties Sept. 15. After graduating from high school in Mountain Grove, Emery went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communications from Drury University and a master’s in education, also from Drury.

She is new to MU Extension, and her official title is regional 4-H youth development specialist. She’ll oversee 4-H programs in Texas, Webster and Wright counties.

“I’m really going to focus on increasing and promoting the 4-H program as a whole,” Emery said. “I want to see membership grow and let people know about all the great projects and activities there are.”

Texas County currently has three 4-H groups, based in Houston, Licking and Cabool (at Bado).

“A lot of people think 4-H is just for farmers,” Emery said, “but it’s a really good opportunity for all youth, and I want to get that word out there. One of my first orders of business will be to make contact with existing clubs, letting them know I’m here and that I want to help in any way I can.

“I have a vision for the business side of my position, but I’d really like to hear from them about what they would like to see happen and how they view my role. We’re in this together, and that will make a big difference in our success.”

Emery said she has already spoken to some county 4-H leaders, and likes what she has heard.

“I’m already proud of what they’re doing,” she said. “It’s a shame more people aren’t aware of what’s going on, but that’s going to change and it will be awesome.”

Houston’s MU Extension office also has a new director. Since Cammie Younger left in July to take an Extension spot in Carter County, the position has been held by Pomona resident Sarah Kenyon.

A native of Hurley, Kenyon earned an undergraduate degree at College of the Ozarks and a master’s in forage physiology from the University of Arkansas.

She has been with MU Extension for about five years, working as an agronomist in Oregon County before transferring to Texas County about a year ago. Her agronomist duties cover an eight-county area, where she works closely with livestock farmers and landowners as a consultant on issues related to plant soil health.

“Being a director is a different take for me,” Kenyon said, “but I think we’re working through the challenges. It’s a work in progress.”

Kenyon said part of the challenge involves getting the many new faces in the office to mesh. In addition to Emery, newcomers include county residents Trisha Adey and Debbie Bieler, who both hold secretarial positions.

And the turnover isn’t yet complete, as the vacant nutrition specialist position formerly held by Younger will be filled early in 2015.

“So my short term goals are to build a really strong team to support the educational programs for Texas County and the surrounding area,” Kenyon said. “I really do want to emphasize the team mentality, because even though I do agronomy, Janice does 4-H and the nutrition people do nutrition, we really do function as a team.

“I honestly have this team-oriented vision in my mind, and I think it’s coming together well. I’m excited about having a busy, fully-staffed office. That’s going to be a wonderful thing for Texas County and the surrounding area.”

After completing a period of observing and training in the field with other Extension 4-H specialists, Emery will be in the office on a regular basis beginning in November.

“I’m absorbing a lot of information right now,” she said. “I’m like a sponge – but I’m really excited about this.”

Office hours at the Texas County Extension office are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 417-967-4545.

I’m excited about having a busy, fully-staffed office. That’s going to be a wonderful thing for Texas County and the surrounding area.”

4-H members across the nation will explore aerospace engineering by responding to a fictional disaster during the seventh annual 4-H National Youth Science Day on Oct. 8.

In the “Rockets to the Rescue” program, youth will be challenged to design and build a rocket to deliver food to a natural disaster site. University of Missouri Extension 4-H specialist Shannon White said participants will design and build rockets using engineering concepts and math skills.

“The challenge brings about awareness of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines assist in global problem solving,” White said. “They’ll also learn about food insecurity and helping others during a disaster.”

In Rockets to the Rescue, a natural disaster has left people on a remote island without food. Youth are asked to build a rocket that can be launched from the mainland, travel over water and deliver high-energy food to island inhabitants. Participants will use recyclable two-liter bottles, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, rubber bands and a protractor to build the rocket.

White said STEM projects such as this support a study by Richard Lerner at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University that shows young people involved in 4-H fare better academically and are more likely to go to college than peers who aren’t in 4-H.

For more information about 4-H National Youth Science Day, log onto For more information about Missouri 4-H, go to

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