Ashley Davis cherished her childhood as a member of the University of Georgia Extension 4-H program. Now an Extension 4-H agent in Tift County, Davis still has the same passion that defined her years ago growing up in Mitchell County.
Whether it's providing assistance in poultry judging, livestock preparation or public speaking, Davis is determined to make her kids' experiences in Tift County 4-H positive ones. It's been so far, so good in Davis' 2 and a half years of service.
"One Saturday we took 23 fifth and sixth graders to Houston County for Cloverleaf DPA, and that's the first time some of them have ever been on a trip like that. But it's also the first time they've ever had to stand in front of a group and present their project. We brought home 16 blue ribbons," she said. "Just to see a smile on their faces, of course, puts a smile on our faces. It's so rewarding to see them accomplish so much at such a young age."
Davis enjoyed similar accomplishments as a 4-H'er under the supervision of Jennifer Grogan â€” who still serves as Mitchell County's 4-H agent. Davis participated in livestock events, served on judging teams and was an annual resident at summer camps at Rock Eagle. Her most memorable experiences were at Rock Eagle 4-H Center, where she developed life-long friendships. Her dream is that all Tift County 4-H'ers experience summer camp at least once because it can be a life-changing event.
"All of them are not going to have the homelife that you and I may have. But that week at camp, I can make sure they're having the best possible time they can have and are learning," Davis said. "I want them to have an experience they'll cherish forever; memories, friends."
Davis' impact is far-reaching. Currently, she leads more than 600 fifth through twelfth grade students.
It can be chaotic, but she is motivated by the unpredictability of each work day. Some days Davis may feed chickens and later help a student work on a project. The next day, she may travel with 4-H'ers to a state conference or national poultry judging competition â€” where Tift County has won three times in the last four years. In fact, since Davis arrived in 2011, her 4-H program has been part of three state-winning judging teams in poultry and consumer.
The sacrifice and hard work is worth it, though, when a student has the same experiences that helped shape Davis' life and career.
"If somebody grew up in 4-H, they're going to want to tell you that they were able to overcome the fear of people, the fear of failure, the fear of rejection because we welcome everyone. It's not a football team where you didn't make the team. In 4-H, everyone's on the team,” she said.
Davis has found her purpose by working with Tift County's 4-H team. Though some workweeks may last six or seven days, she still appreciates being able to wake up and go to a job she loves.
"If you had asked me 15 years ago what my dream job would be, I would say to be a 4-H agent," Davis said. "I guess I'm just living the dream now."
Visit the UGA Extension Tift County website for more information about local programs.
Published April 29, 2014
"If somebody grew up in 4-H, they're going to want to tell you that they were able to overcome the fear of people, the fear of failure, the fear of rejection because we welcome everyone. It's not a football team where you didn't make the team. In 4-H, everyone's on the team."
- Ashley Davis, Tift County 4-H Agent