Tag Archives: tuscola county

Tuscola County 4-H club takes second place nationally

Congratulations to the Deford Dazzlers Rocket Team 4-H club who won second place in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Peter Hansen, Alexander Hansen and Chrysler Parrish, the three club members, traveled to The Plains, Virginia, on May 14 to compete.

The Deford Dazzlers 4-H Club receives their award for finishing in second place in the nation during the Team America Rocketry Challenge. The team is in the orange shirts (from left to right): Peter Hansen, Alexander Hansen and Chrysler Parrish.

The Deford Dazzlers 4-H Club receives their award for finishing in second place in the nation during the Team America Rocketry Challenge. The team is in the orange shirts (from left to right): Peter Hansen, Alexander Hansen and Chrysler Parrish.

According to the TARC website, the competition is an important part of the aerospace and defense industry’s strategy to build a stronger U.S. workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. TARC is also the world’s largest student rocket contest.

Just to get to the competition, the team competed with 775 teams to qualify for one of 100 spots. Despite windy weather, the team’s rocket launch reached an altitude of 829 feet, the second highest score.

Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, IBM and other sponsors awarded the Deford Dazzlers Rocket Team with $16,000 in scholarships ‒ $5,000 per team member, plus another $1,000 for the 4-H club to help fund its science and rocketry education program.

Patricia Hansen, 4-H club leader told the Cass City Chronicle that all of this would not have been possible without Tuscola County 4-H, their program coordinator Heather Middleton and Extension secretary Catherine Patterson.

She also thanked the Tuscola County 4-H Council as well as the Tuscola County residents who recently voted to continue to fund Michigan State University Extension.

We are very proud of our 4-H members and would like to thank everyone who has contributed to their growth and the valuable opportunities they’ve had. Congratulations again to our young rocketeers.

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth, Youth development


I’m sure many of you were watching the election returns last week. In Tuscola County, we were watching especially closely to see if the millage proposal for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension would be successful. I’m pleased to report that it was! In fact, it was passed by an overwhelming 71 percent to 29 percent margin. There were several other millage questions on the ballot throughout the county. All passed, but none as resoundingly as the MSU Extension millage. Special thanks go to our staff-on-the-ground in Tuscola County who, with leadership from district coordinator Joe Bixler, brought about this tremendous result. Because of their strong work and our proud history of meeting Tuscola County needs over the years, a Friends of Extension group was quick to form and convince voters that MSU Extension is integral to the county. This group worked tirelessly to educate and advocate for their Extension programs. Their efforts really paid off. If not for concerned and passionate stakeholders like the Tuscola County Friends of Extension, these local positive funding outcomes would not be possible.

As we celebrate this victory, I want to remind you that this is only the first millage proposal for funding MSU Extension in 2016. During the remaining election cycle, voters in Alcona, Alger, Iosco, Luce, and Shiawassee counties are expected to vote on renewals for existing MSU Extension millages, and we expect that Dickinson County will also have a new funding millage on the ballot as well. We greatly appreciate these efforts to keep MSU Extension funded locally, but prefer to remain part of a county’s general fund. Our best option going forward is to continue doing the good work we do across the state, respond and adapt to our customer’s needs whenever and wherever possible, and make sure that people know the many ways MSU Extension may be impacting their lives. Remember that the best defense is always a good offense!

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About me

About half of the staff know me from my past history with Michigan State University Extension and half do not. For those who do not, I’d like to introduce myself. And maybe some of you who already know me will learn something new.

Both agriculture and MSU Extension are a huge part of my life. I was born on a Michigan Centennial Farm in Tuscola County. A farm is honored with the title of Centennial Farm if it’s continuously owned by one family for at least 100 years, consists of at least 10 acres and is actively producing farm products. Our farm originated in 1882 when my great-grandfather came to the Thumb from Canada. The farm is still in the family. In fact, two generations still live on the farm today. The fields are rented out but the family is still active in making maple syrup. Just as when I was a young person with 4-H projects, my nieces and nephews are active in 4-H, raising animals on this farm. Extension was with me at the beginning, influencing and educating me through 4-H.

I received a bachelor’s in home economics from Central Michigan University in 1974, and I taught home economics for two years. All the while, I had my eye on a career in Extension. My brothers, who both attended MSU, told me I would never get an Extension job unless I graduated from MSU. I proved them wrong when I obtained a half-time position with Extension in 1976. Two years later, the half-time position became full-time in Osceola and Wexford counties. Four years later, I became Osceola county Extension director. At the time, not too many women were county Extension directors. In 1988, I earned a master’s in adult and continuing education at MSU.

We in Extension as in all organizations are no stranger to change. In 1989, Extension was experiencing change, and I became regional supervisor, working out of my house, working under a string of interim directors. In 1993, because of more changes, I needed to reapply for the position of regional director and my office was moved to Grand Rapids.

In 2001, Dean Bill Taylor and President Peter McPherson asked me to be interim Extension director for 6 months. The interim title was dropped and I stayed on as director of Extension till 2005. I went back to Grand Rapids and completed my career as an Extension specialist and consultant. My formal retirement took place in 2008. However, as you know, I’m back again as your interim director.

I’m an active Master Gardener. My husband, Dick, is as well, and loves to staff the statewide MSU Extension Lawn and Garden Hotline. He takes this role very seriously and even I need to wait if he’s busy on the hotline.

My 4-H experience did not end when I grew up. Today, the whole family and I share an interest and love of 4-H. Dick is a 4-H rabbit club leader. My son, Dan, was active in 4-H and the International Farm Youth Exchange, which gave him the opportunity to spend time in Germany.

In August 2009, Dick and I along with Jerry and Merry Malfroid launched the Kent County 4-H Endowment Campaign “Growing 4-H Forever.” In spring 2011, Dick and I hosted an event at our home, which built the fund to the minimum Michigan 4-H Foundation‒required endowment investment of $10,000. Unfortunately, both Jerry and Merry were lost to cancer, but the fund grew as people remembered both of them in memorial gifts. In four short years, these gifts plus a generous contribution from Merry’s estate, along with other annual gifts, have built the endowment to more than $60,000. The Michigan 4-H Foundation will now match $50,000 of that total to create an endowment fund that – after the foundation’s contribution – will have a gift total of $110,000. The endowment fund is a perpetual, permanent asset of the Michigan 4-H Foundation for long-term support of Kent County 4-H. See this Michigan 4-H Foundation Vantage article (on page 2) for details: http://www.mi4hfdtn.org/vantage/2011/2011fallvantage.pdf as well as this follow-up article: http://www.mi4hfdtn.org/vantage/2013/2013fallvantage.pdf (also on page 2).

One of the things I liked best in my role as an Extension educator was the variety of things I was able to work on. I enjoyed working with families living in low-income situations, helping them to develop their potential and find their best talents to solve their own problems. One of the ways we accomplished this was through a program called Mothers of Messy Siblings in which we worked with mothers of young children. These women were often trapped by their situations or even abused. They often were creative and talented, and we helped them find their voices, express their leadership and develop life skills. Some of the best work of my life!

As a county Extension director, I was able to work on programs that involved the community as a whole. For example, one of the programs I was involved in was a community development project in which Extension initiated the collaboration of a variety of local groups to create a mile-long linear park along the Hersey River. This later spun off to several regional trail-head developments.

As regional director, I was involved in regional land-use redevelopment projects from both the rural and the urban perspective. We worked holistically before it was cool!

Extension enabled me to learn and grow and do ‒ all at the same time. I can’t think of a better career fit for me. Extension is an open door to continuous professional development.

As director, I still get charged up about Extension initiatives, the creative opportunities to reach people. I’ll always think of myself as an educator no matter what title I hold. I hope that’s true of everyone in Extension.

As you can tell from my story, my whole family and I not only bleed green but we also bleed Extension. That’s the reason I came back and I’m honored to be back in my role once again.

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Extension secretary receives recognition from NIFA director

Bonnie Powell, secretary in Michigan State University Extension Tuscola County Health and Nutrition Institute, received a note and certificate of appreciation from Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Bonnie works on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) data entry.

The certificate of appreciation is for taking initiative to improve the functionality of WebNEERS and the accuracy of reports. WebNEERS is the Web-based Nutrition Education Evaluation and Reporting System for NIFA. Bonnie’s contributions greatly improved the WebNEERS system for users across the country.

Stephanie Blake, WebNEERS project coordinator at the USDA, spoke to Kathy Raphael, MSU Extension associate program leader, at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Washington, D.C. at the end of February about how invaluable Bonnie’s contributions were and Kathy asked that I repeat the compliment. In a separate note, Stephanie writes that she can’t thank Bonnie enough for all of her help. She has truly made a huge difference with WebNEERS. Way to go, Bonnie!

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Deford Dazzlers take 10th place at rocket national finals, earn right to take part in NASA student launch

In a past Spotlight, I told you about the Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team, the Tuscola County 4-H’ers who scored well enough in the Team America Rocketry Challenge to take part in the national finals May 11-12 in Virginia.

I’m pleased to report the team finished 10th in the national competition, earning a $2,000 grant to fund the 2012-13 rocket season.

The event wasn’t just about flying rockets. Before the competition, the team attended a congressional breakfast at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. across from the Capitol. They had the opportunity to present the rocket, showing and explaining a cross-section of the engine and payload section from a prototype to top executives from the Aerospace Industries Association, a sponsor of the contest; engineers from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon; congressional aides; journalists; and officials from the Department of Defense.

The team members got the chance to get to know the members of other teams who attended the breakfast and reception. Instead of seeing each other as competitors, team members shared tips for success with members of other teams.

Said Mark Hansen, volunteer team mentor, “It was nothing like that of a typical competition. There was a spirit of camaraderie and friendship that was very endearing.”

At the competition, the Dazzlers lived up to their name, dazzling the competition with their near perfect first flight, which now holds the field record for Best Score at national finals. This put them in the lead of the top 24 teams given a chance to fly again. Strong winds affected most everyone’s score the second time around as it did the Dazzlers.’ Still they ended up in 10th place.

Mark said, “I can’t emphasize enough how important this event has been in their lives. The entire process of engineering, working as a team and setting these lofty goals has helped them grow, mature, hone their academic skills, discover their talents and made them better human beings.”

The team’s 10th place win made them eligible to participate in the Student Launch Initiative, the NASA-sponsored program that challenges youth to design, build and launch a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload to one mile above ground level.

Mark will attend a NASA advanced rocketry workshop in July in Huntsville, Ala. Upon his return, the team will begin the raw engineering and data gathering to design their rocket.

Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team

The Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team members pose with their trophy for finishing 10th at the Team America Rocket Challenge national finals May 12, 2012, in Virginia. Team members are in green. Behind them are industry leaders. Team members left to right: Catherine Gordon, Chrysler Parrish, Dustyn Parrish, Peter Hansen, William Webster and Christopher Hansen.
Photo courtesy of Gene Feveryear

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Filed under 4-H

Why we care about measuring impacts

As we have formulated logic models and work plans to articulate the focus of our programs, we often find ourselves trying to summarize the importance of the work we do. Often the easiest measures are ones that measure importance in a way that may tell us how many people use our programs or how frequently people contact us for our services. For example, we know that our Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development programs reach 11 percent of the youth in our state. That’s good to know, and even more valuable is knowing whether that percentage is increasing or decreasing. Certainly, an increase in the percent of youth reached is indicative of how broad our reach is and how effective our programs are at recruiting and retaining participants and the volunteers who serve them. Yet, as education professionals, we want to know more than just who showed up. We really don’t know how lives are changed by simply recording the number of participants. We need to know and we need to be able to report on what difference our programs made to those participants.

 In today’s story about the Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team, it’s pretty cool to celebrate what those youth accomplished, and ranking 10th in the nation is nothing to take lightly. But how will that rocketry experience affect the Dazzlers when they are adults? And what outcomes would we want to see? In 4-H, we say that we want to help prepare youth to be competent, confident, connected, caring, contributing adults. How do we measure that, and how do we determine the role that 4-H played in their development? Those are really difficult questions to answer, and scholars spend entire careers trying to find ways to measure those impacts. We’re fortunate to have colleagues at MSU and at land-grant universities across the country who help us make those measurements. Those long-term impacts are the most challenging to measure. If a Dazzler from 2012 ends up as head of NASA, do we take credit for that? Of course not. Yet, I don’t think anyone would deny that our program had an impact on that youth’s education and career choices that resulted in appointment as NASA director. What if another Dazzler ends up farming in Tuscola County? Do we say the 4-H experience had no impact on their educational and career choices? Of course not. Every experience a youth encounters has an impact on their future trajectory. What the youth learned from rocketry probably will have a lot of relevance to operating agricultural equipment in the 21st century. But that youth has gained much more than a deep understanding of physics and chemistry. He or she has learned how to work with others on a team, has learned how to appreciate the skills of others, has learned how to communicate effectively with peers and with adults.

 I’m really happy for the Dazzlers – nothing is more exhilarating than watching a rocket take off successfully, disappear into the sky, and then reappear with parachute fully deployed. And to do it so successfully is simply awesome. It’s a tremendous accomplishment for them and for the adults like Mark Hansen who help them with their projects. I’m confident that they are more likely to be competent, confident, connected, caring and contributing adults as a result of their efforts. I look forward to the day that we’ll know what contributions those Dazzlers make as adults to test the confidence I have in their experiences. And I appreciate all efforts that my MSUE colleagues make to measure even the short-term impacts of our programs so that we can show the value of our work to others. And I appreciate all efforts that my MSUE colleagues make to expand our reach to serve even more than 11 percent of the youth in Michigan. They all need experiences like the Dazzlers’ to ensure Michigan’s future success.

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It really is rocket science for Tuscola County 4-H club

The Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team members proved to be true rocket scientists. On Feb. 28, this 4-H club from the Tuscola County town of Deford competed against nearly 700 teams from across the U.S. in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), the world’s largest rocket contest, sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).

 Across the country, youth rocket teams compete in qualifying flights in the presence of two official timekeepers and a NAR official. Unlike many other competitions, model rocket contestants are scored from low to high. The 100 lowest-scoring teams earn the right to compete in the TARC in Virginia May 11–12. The Deford Dazzlers’ rocket scored well enough to earn the team a trip to the national event.

 Team members work together creating the rockets, doing all of their own design and construction work. They researched the principles of rocketry and the laws of physics. Mark Hansen, volunteer team mentor, teaches the Dazzlers the mathematics behind it. Mark’s wife, Patricia, as the “rocket mom,” helps Mark balance the details of communication and scheduling. But the kids ultimately make all of their own decisions, using RocSim software to help them design their prototypes.

 The TARC winning team will earn the chance to compete in an international competition at the Paris Air Show, sponsored by NATO Air Force. The top TARC teams receive an invitation to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where they will participate in a three-day educational series on advanced rocketry design. They’ll also receive funds to build an ultra-rocket to specific design specs and return to Virginia where NASA, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, will take the teams out on a destroyer, and launch and retrieve their rockets over the ocean. The winning team will meet the President at the White House.

 Two high schoolers and four middle schoolers (five boys and one girl) comprise the six Deford Dazzlers 4‑H Rocket Team, making the Dazzlers one of the younger teams in the TARC competition. Team members include Catherine Gordon, Christopher Hansen, Peter Hansen, Chrysler Parrish, Dustyn Parrish and William Webster.

 Melissa Payk, Michigan State University Extension educator, called the Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team “… an all-volunteer 4-H club that is totally geeked about science in all its variations – metal working, computers, chemistry, physics, small engines, biology, environmental science, small animals, and, of course, rocketry – they do it all.”

 “We are all about science, and our hope is to inspire some of these kids to go into science technology, engineering or mathematics careers. I’m already seeing some change in the rocketry team. Some of them really didn’t think they had any talent for math or science prior to getting involved in rocketry,” Mark Hansen said. “Now, my wife and I hear comments such as, ‘I could be an engineer. I could be a chemist. I could work for NASA.’ That’s the goal – to help them believe they could be the next generation of scientists. There are very, very few opportunities in the sciences in our area.”

 Mark added, “Getting involved in 4-H and having Melissa Payk, Heather Middleton (Extension program instructor), the Extension office staff, and (4-H) Council get behind me and support me in my dreams for youth sciences has been amazing. I cannot say enough good things about the Tuscola County MSU Extension Office staff and our council. I am blessed to be a part of the program.”

For more information about the Team America Rocket Challenge, visit http://www.rocketcontest.org/.

Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team

Members of the Deford Dazzlers 4-H Rocket Team with their competition rocket pose April 13, 2012, at the MSU Extension Tuscola County benefit fundraiser at the Moose Lodge in Caro, Mich. Back row: Peter Hansen, Dustyn Parrish, William Webster, Christopher Hansen. Front row: Catherine Gordon, Chrysler Parrish.
Photo by Mark Hansen.

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