Baker honored as the 4-H volunteer of the year

Baker honored as the 4-H volunteer of the year
April 30
00:00 2015
(Above: Photos by Chanel Davis- Joseph Baker Jr. holds up his Volunteer of the Year award with  Shanika Gray.)

Joseph Baker Jr. can add another award to his resume. He has been named Forsyth County’s Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Volunteer of the Year.

The award was presented by District 74 House Representative Debra Conrad on Friday, April 24 at the agency’s annual Volunteer Recognition Banquet, held at the Cooperative Extension building.

He was called a shining example of the achievement and commitment symbolized by the agency in his introduction.

“It’s an honor to even have been chosen,” he said. “I really didn’t realize, at first, how huge 4-H is. One of the things that we are going to do is to inform more people and let more children of color know about the club.”

Baker is the North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network (NC-MSEN) Program Pre-College Coordinator at the Winston-Salem State University Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. He is also a product of the program.

There he works to increase the number of teachers in mathematics and science education and to increase the number of high school graduates prepared to pursue careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) arena.

As the volunteer leader for the 4-H Ram Squad Stem Club, made up of almost 100 students, he is described to have been instrumental in chartering the newest and culturally diverse 4-H Club in Forsyth County.

“We pride ourselves on being a well-diverse program. We have kids from the Hispanic, Asian and Black community. We pride ourselves on having kids from several different walks,” he said.

The club, under Baker’s leaderships, has co-sponsored the Citizenship Washington Focus Civic Action Project, a professional dress-clothing drive for The Shalom Project and Goodwill of Northwest Northwest Carolina’s Success Outfitters, increasing awareness regarding youth philanthropy and local civic issues. They have participated in STEM Camp at Betsy Jeff Penn Campgrounds, Underwater and Junk Drawer Robotics competitions, and trivia bowls. Baker, 39,said he places a great emphasis on community service.

“A lot of the things that were afforded as a result of people volunteering to do,” said the Durham resident. “We stress that. If there is an opportunity for us to get out and do some things, we have to do it. You help these kids because eventually these are the kids who will be taking care of you.”

Shanika Gray, the 4-H Youth Development coordinator for the county, said that she nominated Baker because he is a great example of an African-American male who exemplifies what the agency stands for.

“Joe commutes from Durham everyday. He will come out of pocket for things that are needed. It’s really above and beyond the call,” she said.

Baker said that his goal is to get more parental involvement.

“Our goal is to get our kids involved and let their parents know about these programs,” he said. “We want to make everyone in our circle aware of what 4-H has to offer. We’re not about to watch our kids fall by the wayside.”

Irma Jackson was also recognized as the Community Gardening Volunteer of the Year and her work as the mentor at the Diggs-Latham Elementary School. She also tends a garden plot a the West Salem Community garden, which supports the gardener’s effort to increase food security.

The retired teacher often shares her information with others. She’s active with two of the Forsyth County’s Cooperative Extension’s volunteer programs: the Community Garden Mentor Program and the Master Gardener Volunteer Program.

The reception honored and thanked the volunteers for all their hard work, an estimated 29,055 volunteer hours in 2014.

“Any time you do any type of volunteering, whether it’s a small act or a large act, it’s priceless,”  said Lonnette Marsh, interim Regional Program Coordinator at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Marsh was the keynote speaker at the event and spoke of the value of volunteers.

“Volunteering is helping, not hiring. Giving, not taking. Is contributing, not counting. In the end, we cannot, and should not, put a dollar value on volunteers. How can we put a monetary value on ordinary people who do extraordinary things. The value of volunteering is priceless.”

Other awardees included: Beth Tucker of Kernersville for Outstanding Agriculture Volunteer Award; Harriet McCarthy, Carol Devries, Emily Bundy, Teresa Lowery and Jim Nottke were all recognized for Outstanding Master Gardener Volunteer Service; Bethabara Park was given the Friend of Extension Award for a Partner Organization; and Rita Cruise was given the Outstanding Extension Volunteer award.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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