Across the state, the 4-H program saw cuts in funding, leading to changes. When Pete Mangum retired from his position as Community Based Instructor, the search for his replacement had to happen quickly with the 4-H’s biggest events like the Horse Show, the County Fair and Shooting Sports happening in August. Ely resident Jamie Brunson came on board to do just that.
“It’s been very hectic,” Brunson said. “It’s definitely been a challenge to come in so close to all the biggest events of the whole season. But everybody’s been very supportive and very helpful, so that’s made the transition a lot easier.”
Brunson is no stranger to the 4-H program, being involved for eight years when she was a child, taking part in building fair exhibits and becoming a 4-H ambassador. Her background in agriculture coupled with wanting to work with children made the CBI opening the ideal position for her to apply to.
“I have always had a desire to work with children,” Brunson said. “But as I get older, I have less of a desire to do it in an educational school environment. This is a place that I can educate them in the field that I am strongest in and find the most interesting.”
Despite her desire to work with children, Brunson was also hesitant about taking the job, even thinking about not applying at one point.
“I was definitely worried about how much time involvement it was going to be,” Brunson said. “That was one thing that discouraged me from not applying and I thought about not doing it because I know it’s pretty labor intensive.”
But it was encouragement from her husband that helped convince her this opportunity was too good to pass up going after.
“My husband was my tipping point,” Brunson aid. “He said if there was ever a job out there for you, this was it. If my husband has this kind of faith in me, I figured I could find it too.”
Since she was hired, Brunson has hit the ground running. The 4-H horse show took place last weekend. And with events in shooting sports and the White Pine County Fair following in the coming weeks, there has been little time to breath as she acclimates to her new job.
“The horse show went well,” Brunson said. “There were a few hiccups on the paperwork end of things because I’m still learning, but other than that, everything went really well. The kids did great.”
Once August is past and the school year begins, Brunson’s attention will turn toward increasing participation in the program. Brunson said she plans to visit schools throughout the district in Ely, McGill, Lund and Baker to help raise awareness about the variety of programs offered from horse riding to robotics.
“I would like to see more enrollment in more areas,” Brunson said. “The horse show, we had 22 kids enrolled this year and I think we have 148 kids. That is going to be my main focus is try to find a way to bring kids back in.”
Brunson said 4-H offers a variety of activities in many different areas. And it provides students of any age structure along with experience and learning outside the classroom.
“My main reason would be there’s so few enrichment programs, so few extracurricular activities offered any more,” Brunson said. “This is a way for parents to take advantage of those skills and to help kids get a more hands-on education. I’ve learned a lot through 4-H and still have projects I made 20 years ago. It’s an opportunity to create something that lasts a lifetime.”
Though Brunson just completed her first official week on the job, she knows it will be a long road until she learns all there is to know. But, she’s ready to tackle that challenge.
“Nothing has surprised me,” Brunson said. “Coming into it, there was going to be a lot to learn and I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg. But the parent volunteers that we have are fantastic. They are very supportive and supportive of their children, which I think will make my job a lot easier.”