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Three people standing beside each other.
Jim Rhodes, Leslie Lewis and Sara Randolph, from left, will provide 4-H program support in the west, northeast and southeast districts, respectively. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

New district program specialists named for Oklahoma 4-H

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 |

Their faces aren’t new to the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program, but their titles and job responsibilities have changed.

Leslie Lewis, Sara Randolph and Jim Rhodes have been named the new 4-H district program specialists for the northeast, southeast and west districts, respectively. These positions play important roles in developing youth leaders, mentoring new educators, recruiting and retaining volunteers, supporting events and more, said Damona Doye, Oklahoma State University Extension associate vice president.

“Each of them brings a unique skill set, which will also add to our capacity for program and curriculum development,” Doye said. “We’re grateful to the educators who stepped up in the interim roles to assist until the budget allowed us to fill these valued positions.”

Lewis brings 11 years of experience to her new role, having most recently served as the agriculture/4-H educator and county Extension director in Okmulgee County. She believes her time in the county will be beneficial in her new role.

“My experiences as a county educator will help me understand what the other educators in the northeast district are going through. This will enable me to help them with their county programs,” Lewis said. “The first thing on my agenda after getting settled in is to start meeting the new educators in the district.”

Lewis also said that as a district program specialist, she will work with educators and volunteers to help combat the issues of declining membership among older teens.

Randolph, who served dual appointments in Johnston and Marshall counties as the family and consumer sciences educator, as well as interim county Extension director in Marshall County, said she’s looking forward to working with educators in the 23 counties of the southeast district and bolstering enrollment, especially among older club members.

“Project work is the backbone of 4-H across the state,” Randolph said. “With that in mind, I want to work with counties to ensure we’re providing strong project work and opportunities that grow with the 4-H members. I also look forward to learning more about my educators and their strengths and determining areas of growth.”

Randolph has been with OSU Extension for 15 years and was in the North Carolina Extension system for four years before coming to Oklahoma.

Rhodes is no stranger to OSU Extension with 32 years of experience under his belt. He most recently filled the role of Oklahoma 4-H youth safety specialist where he conducted ATV safety training classes. Prior to that he served as a county 4-H educator.

“My experience in the county gives me an understanding of the challenges faced by an educator. I’ll be able to help with issues because I’ve been there,” Rhodes said. “In my new role, I’m looking forward to mentoring new educators and assisting as needed to help them with their careers. I’m also looking forward to diving into all of the upcoming activities such as the Spring 4-H Trap Shoot, various workshops and other events.”

There are great benefits of being involved in 4-H and these new district program specialists play a vital role in the success of the program and of its members.

“4-H allows our kids to learn so many life skills they will take and use throughout the rest of their lives,” Lewis said.

Rhodes said the learn-by-doing approach helps club members develop numerous skills.

“Club members learn to cook, sew, take responsibility for their project, set goals, make decisions and develop public speaking and leadership skills,” he said. “It’s exciting to watch 4-H’ers develop their self-confidence when they complete a project or present a speech.”

Steve Beck, state 4-H program leader, said Oklahoma has benefitted from the use of 4-H district program specialists for many years.

“They are a large reason that Oklahoma 4-H has a program that’s nationally recognized as being one of the premier programs in the country,” Beck said. “District program specialists have experienced both the challenges and rewards of being a county educator and they use those experiences to encourage our educators to push their programs to the next level. Leslie, Sara and Jim are outstanding individuals who will continue this tradition, and Oklahoma 4-H will continue to thrive under their leadership.”

For more information about 4-H, contact your local OSU Extension county office. 4-H is the youth development arm of OSU Extension and provides hand-on learning opportunities for youth in all 77 counties.

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