Jeri Gilleland’s passion is working with youth. She lives out her dream job as University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H agent in Ben Hill County by guiding her students through character-building projects and leading them on once-in-a-lifetime trips.
“My philosophy is to give these kids experiences and opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Gilleland said. “When we’re involved in a lot of activities that are competitive at the state level, that gives them the chance to go on national trips as well. I think that’s so good to be able to provide these kids with those experiences.”
Gilleland’s 4-H students build homes with Habitat for Humanity, visit nursing homes and help in community gardens. The students are also very active in 4-H judging teams, such as consumer judging and poultry judging, which will start in the spring.
“I believe that learning to aim for the highest level of success in 4-H competitions translates into aiming for the highest level of success in life,” Gilleland said.
Gilleland provides her students with experiences they’ve never had—it’s all part of building a successful 4-H program. She prides herself in taking 4-H students places they’ve never been before, from the mountains of north Georgia; to Atlanta to meet the governor, to speak before the Georgia General Assembly and to interact with their state legislators; and to Washington D.C.
“I provide a framework of experiences for these kids that has allowed youth from our county to become state competitors, state winners, state officers and national youth leaders,” she said. “When these kids participate in those kinds of activities and when they have the experience to broaden their horizons by traveling around the state, then they grow up to be active in their communities and grow up to be productive citizens.”
Gilleland was always involved in 4-H. Whether she was winning state competitions or showing Angus cattle in Missouri, Gilleland lived and breathed agriculture, and agriculture made its way into the career she has today.
Both of Gilleland’s parents were active volunteer leaders in her community when she was a child. It was only natural for Gilleland to want to further that family legacy. Her involvement in agriculture and her love for it drove her to pursue a degree in a related field.
“I feel like my work in the UGA Extension office in Ben Hill County actually brought me back to my roots,” Gilleland said.
Visit the UGA Extension Ben Hill County website for more information about local programs.
Published November 16, 2015
“I believe that learning to aim for the highest level of success in 4-H competitions translates into aiming for the highest level of success in life.”
- Jeri Gilleland, Ben Hill County 4-H Agent