Retirements leave extension with fewer staffers

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011
— It's one of those moments Sue Fredrich will remember long after she retires.

A tiny 4-H'er, probably a Cloverbud, ran off the stage after his performance at UW-Rock County and shouted, "That was the bestest ever!"

"It made all of the work we did worthwhile," Fredrich said.

Many people hope that memory isn't the only part of the Rock County 4-H drama program that lasts after Fredrich's retirement Dec. 31.

It will be the second 4-H retirement this year from the office that administers the county's 4-H program. Part-time 4-H assistant Linda Marshall also has retired.

The 4-H program is one of four parts to the UW Cooperative Extension program, which is intended to make University of Wisconsin research and data accessible to residents. The Extension program is funded with county, state and federal money and comprises community development, agriculture, family living and 4-H.

In Rock County, the office started the year with two agriculture agents, a part-time horticulture agent, a family living agent and 2.6 4-H positions.

Rock County has not had a community development agent for several years, Fredrich said.

With a nod to the uncertainty of future county and state budgets, Extension department head Randy Thompson said the plan at this time is to replace Fredrich.

The new agent also would assume some of Marshall's responsibilities, Thompson said.

Each county extension office is staffed differently. Most counties have only one 4-H agent, he said.

Fredrich hopes the size of Rock County's 4-H program will justify a second agent.

"We did make the appeal that this (Rock County) is the largest 4-H program in the state," Fredrich said. "We've made a group effort and showed our concern."

How the program operates after Fredrich leaves will depend on the parents and other adults who support 4-H, Thompson said.

"It'll all go back to those that are involved in the youth program as far as prioritizing what's important," Thompson said. "Some programs could be cut, some will be picked up. There will be an even greater need for a volunteer program than there has been in the past."

One of Fredrich's responsibilities was the annual 4-H music and drama festival. More than 250 kids participated in this year's festival, which took place in May at the Kirk Denmark Theater at UW-Rock County.

Marissa Neal is one of the adults who wants the drama program to remain a priority.

"Kids have a lot of different needs," Neal said. "Not all kids want to show animals or do projects. Some kids, their creativity moves in this direction."

Neal is the adult director of the Newark Pioneers drama group. The club took first place at the county competition and will compete next month at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Liz Kasprzak is the adult director of the Badger 4-H drama group. She agrees that drama adds an important opportunity to the 4-H experience.

Being exposed to drama helps kids practice conquering that common fear of public speaking and helps them get outside of themselves, Kasprzak said.

"If they can pretend to be somebody else," she said. "it's a little easier."


More than 250 4-H members and adults participated in the annual 4-H Music and Drama Festival. Drama groups from the Newark and Milton 4-H clubs won the opportunity to perform at the Wisconsin State Fair in August. The Badger 4-H drama group won an alternate award.

The winners will perform at the Rock County 4-H Fair at 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. Thursday at the Craig Avenue Pavilion.

The plays are no longer than 20 minutes.

Here are the winning groups:

Newark 4-H

Play: "The Doofus Gang Rides Again"

The cast: 11 kids ages 7 to 18.

Adult leaders: Marissa Neal and assistant Barbara Francis

About the performance: Neal prefers plays to musicals and chooses scripts that challenge 4-H'ers to stretch their boundaries.

"The group of kids I have are exceptional bunch," Neal said. "They're not afraid to try new things."

Milton 4-H

Play: "Little Red Riding Hood"

The cast: 16 kids from kindergarten to middle school age

Adult leader: Deb Gegare

Youth director: Lexi Gregare

About the performance: The club was the most improved since the 2010 music and drama festival, a judge told Gregare. The win had been a long-time coming for Milton 4-H, and Gregare was so surprised she shouted out loud.

"I'm glad I had my 4-H filter on," she said, laughing.

Badger 4-H

Play: "4-H is a Good Thing"

The cast: 22 kids ages 7 to 17.

Adult leader: Liz Kasprzak

Youth directors: Ariel Stefanczyk and Leah Kasprzak

About the performance: Leah Kasprzak, 14, wrote and recorded four of the five songs in the show. Ariel Stefanczyk wrote the script and custom designed parts for each participant depending on how confident each child was with his or her speaking abilities, Liz Kasprzak said.

"It was a good introduction for them," Kasprzak said.

Last updated: 5:48 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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