BROOKSVILLE — From nearly 3,600 youth development professionals — members of the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents — Hernando County 4-H agent Nancy Moores has been selected for the organization's Distinguished Service Award.
She is one of just 70 recipients nationwide this year.
The 11-year 4-H veteran was praised for her "expertise and professionalism," plus the founding or expansion of programs in youth leadership training, team building and public speaking, among others.
"Four-H is so much more than traditional ag programs," Moores said recently. " 'Learn by Doing' is one of our mottos," and that's one aspect of her efforts that has distinguished her.
She engages youths ages 8 to 18 so that they participate, not just sit back and listen.
Said county extension director Stacy Strickland, in praise of Moores: "Her interaction with kids — she uses (word) tricks (and) really knows how to get the most out of these kids."
Currently, Moores oversees 23 established 4-H clubs locally with some 300 members. An outreach effort extends to 50 to 100 classes a year in Hernando schools, reaching up to 2,000 students annually.
Her co-workers and volunteer leaders know the woman with a big presence as an untiring whirlwind who can juggle many jobs in different subjects efficiently, almost simultaneously. She's almost always ready with an answer.
Moores, 46, first earned the Florida Distinguished Service Award, judged by her 4-H agent peers in the state. Her application then went on for a top selection in the multistate Southern region.
"They asked for descriptions of what I consider important," Moores said. "One is our teen leadership program (in which 4-H club) officers are teamed with adult volunteer mentors.
"One of our award-winning programs is teen counselors," she added.
Teens who will serve as counselors at 4-H camps are schooled in the interests and abilities of campers of various age groups. With that knowledge, the counselors create programs for the camps.
Then, there's the Youth Council, so called because some of the members "are younger than teens and can represent their club," Moores said. "Every club is invited. They look at countywide events to hold or needs to fill."
Moores has encouraged enrollment of adult volunteers, not just as club leaders. "There's also the 4-H Foundation that is the fundraising board," she said.
The county has a high poverty rate, Moores noted. "We try to get those kids involved," she said.
Money raised from an annual auction goes to pay for scholarships for camps and for enrollment in leadership training seminars. "We don't want any kid to miss an opportunity because they can't afford it," she said.
"Camping is a very large part of the culmination of our year," Moores said. Summer camps for leadership, environmental education and specific project pursuits, from sewing to shooting to horsemanship, are offered. Kids learn life skills, experience living with others, engage in decisionmaking and perform community service.
The school enrichment programs range from agricultural literacy to the Black Stallion literacy program, a favorite book series among teens. There is also a conflict resolution series.
Not forgetting 4-H's ag and home roots, Moores adds: "We've still got our ag programs — swine and steers, also chickens, rabbits, goats." And there are still some kids who do their own sewing of clothes.
Every project includes a speaking or showmanship component.
Each club must perform a community service annually.
And in Hernando, Moores coordinates it all.
Kia Harries, vice president of member services for the national 4-H agent organization, pointed out that Moores developed a parliamentary procedure program with a handbook and games that is used throughout the state.
"She also has done a fantastic job with school enrichment," Harries said.
Strickland, the county extension director, said Moores "is extremely professional."
"She is what a county extension director would want out of a 4-H agent. Some employees need intense directing, (but) Nancy is one who really knows her job inside and out."
With a bachelor's degree in child psychology and a master's in education, Moores was never a 4-H participant herself. She was introduced to the program by her husband, Jeffrey, who was a 4-H leader for seven years.
The couple's daughters — Jodi, 23, and Sara, 21 — are both 4-H alumnae and are pursuing studies that will lead to careers that are outgrowths of their 4-H experiences. Jodi is majoring in education; Sara is studying veterinary medicine.
Moores' award will be presented Oct. 27 at the association's national meeting in Phoenix. She doesn't know yet whether she will attend.