Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Publisher’s Memo: Want dependability? Find a 4-H’er

August 13, 2003

In so many ways, this is my favorite week of the year in Tonganoxie.

It's darned near impossible not to get caught up in the energy of the Leavenworth County Fair, which is under way this week in Tonganoxie.

And for me, looking forward to a county fair is something of a new experience. Even though I grew up out in Bob Dole country, the county fair always meant the arrival of the carnival. Period.

I didn't care about the exhibits in the buildings. I didn't care about the animals in the pens.

And that was my loss.

The 2003 edition of the Leavenworth County Fair marks the fourth year of my new-found appreciation for 4-H and FFA. I'm only sorry I didn't have it when I was younger. I thought exhibiting animals and constructing outfits was reserved only for those country kids who rode the bus to school.

And, goodness knows, this city kid wasn't about to lower herself to join 4-H.

Admittedly, back in the Dark Ages, when I was a youngster, 4-H was geared toward those farm kids. But today, the program has been retooled, and it offers opportunities for all types of young people, regardless of where they live.

And so, the Leavenworth County Fair has provided a chance to alter my thinking. It's been a wonderfully uplifting process. Now, I am a gung-ho supporter of Leavenworth County 4-H and FFA.

I believe I began to change my view in 2000, when The Mirror published its first fair edition under my leadership. I was impressed by what the members of 4-H and FFA were working on for the fair. And I was impressed by how poised, how sure of themselves and their work, those young people were.

It was that summer that I had the privilege to meet Maggie Bailey, a young 4-H'er who was heavily involved in the county fair.

We featured Maggie and her brother, Jimmy, in a story in our fair edition, and I had visited their home to make a photograph of the brother and sister. I was impressed with them.

I was pleased earlier this year to hear again from Maggie -- now known simply as "Mags." She told me she was abandoning plans to major in architecture at Kansas State University, but entering the college's journalism program.

Because I bleed crimson and blue, I tried to sway Maggie away from KSU and toward the University of Kansas, my alma mater. Clearly, my advice was not even being considered.

No matter.

Maggie and I stayed in touch via e-mail during the spring, and I jumped at the chance to have her join our staff this summer -- if only for a couple of hours a week. Because of Maggie's background in 4-H, I was hopeful she would want to work with our staff on our annual fair edition.

And true to form, Maggie handled her part of the project with organization and dedication.

She wrote all of the stories and made all of the photographs in what I refer to as the Maggie Bailey Memorial Fair Edition.

The remarkable thing about Maggie's work this summer at The Mirror is that she sandwiched it all in between two other jobs.

While there were a few times this summer that I questioned my decision to turn the edition over to a college student, my fears dissipated as I remembered that Maggie had been a 4-H kid.

I believe 4-H, along with her parents' guidance, helped make Maggie such reliable person. She assured me she would handle the job, and she did.

The entire Mirror staff has enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Maggie this summer.

She's impressed us all, and we're eager to see her enter our profession.

Like other college students she has a few things to learn, particularly about appropriate office attire. Every time she came to the office, she wore one of her many purple shirts touting the superiority of some sort of animal. I believe she called it Willie the Wildcat.

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