February 2015
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: A Strong Vision

Emily Nichols  

Emily Nichols joins Alabama’s state 4-H staff as Youth Natural Resources and Environmental Education Specialist.

Emily Nichols recently joined the Alabama Cooperative Extension System state 4-H staff as 4-H Youth Natural Resources and Environmental Education Specialist.

She will provide leadership to the Natural Resources and Environmental Education program by developing effective collaborations and teamwork encompassing natural resources programs, developing and selecting curriculum, helping to form partnerships, and coordinating all 4-H environmental programs, competitive events and special events. She will also serve as liaison in an advisory capacity to the Alabama 4-H and Youth Development Center.

While this might sound a little overwhelming, Nichols said she is ready for the challenge.

"I am really excited about this opportunity and look forward to getting involved with 4-H and working with Alabama’s young people, Extension staff and 4-H volunteers throughout the state," she said.

"Emily’s background and experience are an important addition to our state 4-H team," said Dr. Paul Brown, associate director for Alabama Extension. "Alabama 4-H gives young people confidence with their peers, experience in their world and a belief in themselves that only comes from hands-on learning opportunities."

Alabama 4-H already has some excellent environmental education programs that reach youth through in-school, after-school and special-interest clubs. These include shooting sports, wildlife habitat judging, forestry judging, ground water festivals, Classroom in the Forest and Forest in the Classroom, Alabama Water Watch, and Skins and Skulls, just to name a few.

"My vision is to focus on strengthening and enhancing the programs we have, by broadening our reach and getting our vision out across the state," Nichols explained.

She also wants to increase 4-H youth participation, especially in those counties with low program activity in natural resources, and provide more opportunities where youth can participate in leadership and community service projects.

One of the goals for 2015 is to have environmental field days in various counties and regions from January through July.

"Our goal is to get the 4-H vision out to the regional agents and help them understand why our environmental programs are so important. We will generate interest and provide training opportunities for them so they can implement the programs in their counties. We will also provide support when we can as they are implementing programs," Nichols added.

Nichols grew up in Alabama and is familiar with Alabama’s abundant natural resources. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Auburn University and upon graduation, went to work with an engineering consulting company as an environmental scientist. While working in that capacity, she earned a professional master’s degree in Environmental Management from Samford University.

After earning her master’s, Nichols joined the Peace Corps and served in The Gambia for just over 2 years. During this time, she worked on a sustainable fisheries project in partnership with the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, World Wildlife Fund, the Government of The Gambia and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

While there, she lived with a Gambian family in a small coastal village and did everything from report writing to going out to sea with fishermen. She also worked with women oyster harvesters during an oyster research study in the Tanbi Estuary.

Upon her return to Alabama, Nichols became a research associate with the Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences at Auburn University.

"I want to teach youth to live in a changing world and give them experiences they need to not only live in this world but make it better," Nichols said. "4-H programs and activities provide youth with learn-by-doing opportunities, and give them the tools they need to develop a sense of responsibility to others and to their communities. The skills and knowledge they learn will help them better understand and appreciate their environment and be better citizens."

Donna Reynolds is communications editor III-Dept for ACES.