By Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
SarahRae Sisson (top, left) started work last week at the Penn State Extension office in Montrose as the new 4-H educator for Susquehanna County, after serving in the same position for just less than a year in Wyoming County.
In addition to having family in the area, Sisson previously worked as director of elections for the county. She graduated from Penn State. But her 4-H roots take her back to Iowa.
As a 4-H youth, Sisson said she dabbled in livestock, but her true loves were horses and dogs. She showed both at the Pocahontas County Fair. Her mother still holds on to boxes full of her trophies and ribbons.
Sisson also took a sincere interest in law enforcement as a teenager, inspired in part by her stepfather who worked as a state trooper in Iowa. She started pursuing law enforcement credits while she was still in high school.
Sisson enlisted in the Air Force and spent eight years at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia in security forces. “I liked the law enforcement side of it,” she recalled. In the course of her active duty, she completed her criminal justice degree and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Adolescent Development from Penn State online.
When the option came up to re-enlist, Sisson considered it. She was ready to start a family and, though she highly regards those who are able to balance family and a military career, Sisson decided that it wasn’t for her.
“I realized that I really wanted to work with youths,” she stated, noting that the 4-H educator position seemed to be the perfect union of her Penn State degree and her love of 4-H, which she had missed. Sisson also liked the idea of moving back to a small rural area and embracing a lifestyle that walks hand-in-hand with 4-H.
“I am excited to be here and have a passion for the program. 4-H provides such a sense of community,” she stated. In the brief time that she worked in Wyoming County (top photo, far left), Sisson’s notion that she was on the right track was affirmed as she saw young people come out of their shells and gain the confidence needed to show their projects and give presentations.
“Her strength is her knowledge of the 4-H program and being able to work with the leaders and families to strengthen and enhance the program area,” Amy Murphy, an area educator for 19 counties, including Susquehanna, noted of Sisson’s potential.
“I know how important the program was to me in developing life skills,” said Sisson, who felt that 4-H was calling her back. “I love seeing kids achieve things that they didn’t even know they could achieve.” Sisson also hopes to inspire the eventual involvement in 4-H of her five-year-old daughter, Kayleigh.
Having worked in Susquehanna County previously and made connections with local officials will prove a great benefit to Sisson, Murphy suggested. “In Wyoming County, she did an outstanding job of building relationships with leaders there.”
In the coming weeks, Sisson will begin an assessment of the county-wide program while also reaching out to 4-H leaders and volunteers throughout the county. “We’ll take a look a where we are now, where we want to go, and figure out how we’re going to get there,” said Sisson, who will conduct a leader training session with policy updates for active leaders and volunteers on Jan. 24.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the youths and leaders after the holidays, when the clubs start back up again,” Sisson stated.
There are currently twenty-two 4-H clubs in Susquehanna County, through which 99 volunteers provide instruction and guidance for 335 youths on a variety of topics. 4-H is much more than agriculture, Sisson maintains. “Pretty much anything a child has an interest in, there is probably a project,” she stated.
In addition to those projects involving livestock and other animals, projects available to Susquehanna County youths include woodworking, theater, rocketry, crafts and fine arts, robotics, forestry, photography, cake decorating and babysitting.