Robertson comes full circle with Smyth County's 4-H program
For his career, Bailey Robertson always wanted to oversee a recreation program. He prepared for it by earning degrees directly linked to recreation, but then the Chilhowie native took a position with Smyth County’s 4-H program.
From 2018 to 2020, Robertson served as the program assistant for the county’s 4-H Youth Development program. “Here,” he said, “I fell in love with the teaching aspect” of the work.
Still, when the opportunity to serve as community program coordinator for the Town of Wytheville came along, Robertson took it. The work meshed with his bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism and his master’s in Recreation Administration.
But, last fall, the chance to become Smyth’s 4-H Extension Agent opened up. In mid-October, Robertson stepped into the role and hasn’t had much time, if any, to look back.
“It’s not a slow pace,” he declared.
The work definitely isn’t a desk job.
In recent months, he’s led 4-H’ers to Richmond for 4-H Day at the Capitol, organized a teen leadership lock-in in Rich Valley, helped members of the Livestock Club compete, and worked with elementary students throughout the county on How-To project demonstrations and public speaking – to name a few blocks on Robertson’s calendar.
Through the county 4-H program, Robertson works with every third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade class in the public schools. Plus, the program offers a home-school club.
Robertson possesses firsthand knowledge of 4-H’s value.
“I grew up in 4-H,” he said of the program that is delivered by Cooperative Extension across the country.
He attended 4-H camp almost every year, first as a participant and then as a teen leader. He’s particularly grateful for the life skills that 4-H helped him develop, especially public speaking. Those skills, he said, have opened many doors. Over the years and in different ways, he said, he “owes 4-H for every job I’ve gotten.”
Today, Robertson loves to witness the life skills growth in the students with whom he works. Many, he observed, are quiet and soft-spoken when they start in 4-H and over time grow “into different people.”
Robertson emphasized the diversity of 4-H programs. “It’s way more than camp and livestock,” he declared, listing cooking projects, robotics, shooting sports, and others.
“At the end of the day,” Robertson said, 4-H is about helping youth in Smyth County “grow and reach their full potential,” and, he hopes, eventually settle in Southwest Virginia.
Among Robertson’s goals is guiding the clubs and program participants “to give back to the community.”
He noted potential efforts might include supporting residents of nursing and assisted living homes, undertaking litter clean up and volunteering, and putting a float in parades.
“We’re looking to get out and put the Clover in people’s faces” and get kids involved in the community, he said.
The four-leaf clover has long served as a 4-H symbol, representing the four Hs: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. 4-H’ers “pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
For Robertson, it’s important for the program to be in a relationship with the youth and their parents so that everyone can share in its vision.
Frequently, he hears from potential participants and/or their parents: “We don’t have time for 4-H.”
Robertson counters: “We make time for you.”
For anyone who’d like to be part of 4-H, he said, the program will work to accommodate schedules. “We’re not 9-to-5 people,” he said.
Robertson is happy to be working in his home community. He continues to live in Wytheville and said he has no plans to leave Southwest Virginia.
During his college years, Robertson worked in Richmond and Washington, D.C., and came to know that “city life is not for me.”
Active outdoors, Robertson loves kayaking, camping, and fishing, especially fly-fishing. An athlete since his youth, it’s not hard to convince him to play pickup basketball. And, he enjoys woodworking and similar endeavors to experience the “Wow! I made that! moments.”
To learn more about 4-H in Smyth County, visit https://smyth.ext.vt.edu/programs/4-h-youth-development.html or check out the program’s Facebook page. To learn about 4-H overall, visit https://4-h.org/.