By Cindy Jo Ayers
Through the years Stacey Ellison has made this pledge hundreds of times, “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
When she joined Santa Fe 4-H Club many years ago neither her 4-H program assistant, the late Elaine Faison, nor her teachers at Bell Elementary knew that one day she would become the new Associate State Program Leader for Florida 4-H Youth Development Program at the University of Florida IFAS on August 1, 2019.
Ellison has a 32 year history in 4-H starting back in those early years in Bell. She participated on the local level as County Council President, District III Council which included nine counties, and as a member of the Florida 4-H’s State Executive Board.
She participated at the Suwannee River Fair showing poultry and dairy goats. She also participated in the horse show at the fair. As a senior she won the Suwannee River Fair Scholarship.
One of the highlights of Ellison’s 4-H membership took place in 1994 when her mother Lyn Ellison, a very active 4-H volunteer and Poultry Coach, helped the Gilchrist County 4-H Poultry Judging Team make it to the national competition. Stacey Ellison and other team members traveled to Louisville, Kentucky where the team won Nationals.
Her summers included a trip to 4-H Camp at Camp Cherry Lake with former County Agent Marvin Weaver, at first as a camper and later as a camp counselor.
Ellison went on to graduate from Bell High School in 1996. Then she set out to pursue a career in 4-H. Ellison said, “I am a 4-H alum whose greatest aspiration was to become a county 4-H agent. I worked at state headquarter as a college student, served as a 4-H volunteer and finally found my way into my first professional 4-H position in 2001.
Ellison’s started her career as one of the 4-H Agents in Levy County where she worked for five years. Then she moved to become the 4-H Agent in Houston County, Georgia for seven years. Houston County is home to the Georgia National Fairgrounds.
Ellison said that her decision to make a career in 4-H Development was spurred on by the drive to make the opportunities she had as a youth possible for the young people of Florida today. In her most recent professional role, she has increased the visibility of Florida 4-H with her signature Citizenship and Leadership programs. Under her leadership programs such as Florida 4-H Executive Board, 4-H Day at the Capital and the Florida 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking program have continued to grow and flourish.
Ellison said, “I am someone who passionately, and unquestionably, believes 4-H has the potential to be the premiere positive youth development organization any-where.”
When asked what she hoped to bring to Florida 4-H through her new position Ellison stated, “We have a lot of incredible talent involved in all levels of Florida 4-H, from amazing members and volunteers, to talented county agents and state 4-H faculty and staff. My goal is to get all this incredible talent moving in the same direction to reach even more youth and families. Annually we already reach more than 200,000 of Florida’s youth, or 6.5%. We’d love to, and I believe we can, reach upwards of 10%. We know there are young people out there who can benefit from our programs who are not yet being reached, and we would like to change that. Florida is typically in the top five in the nation in terms of number of 4-H youth. However, we can do more and we want to be more.”
Ellison reflected back to her youth and Gilchrist County 4-H and what the organization meant to her saying, “I had a lot of great experiences in 4-H, but it is very much the leadership, public speaking, and decision making skills I gained through the program that has helped me tremendously through college and career.”
Stacey Ellison is married to Larry Koon and they have two children, Nicholas who is 8, a 4-H member himself, so far he has participated in public speaking and showing chickens, and Meredith who is 3.
They live on 15 acres outside Archer with their dogs, poultry, goats and mini-donkeys.
Stacey Ellison to lead Florida 4-H into the future
By Cindy Jo Ayers