Like falling off a log. Like stepping through a doorway. It is no surprise that work for Va Shon Wallace-Hiltpold, a 4-H extension educator, seems so effortless. Her vibrant personality seems to be the perfect match for a career that allows her to work with young people. With three teenagers of her own, her house is usually full of teens, “Which brings me so much joy and is a great reminder as to why I do the work I do.”
Her vocation as an educator consists of three major components. The first is reaching new audiences through the 4-H IMPACT program. This involves organizing or setting up short-term 4-H workshops in communities in the northeast region of the state. The program Wallace-Hiltpold presents most often is the well-received 4-H babysitter program. This tried and true course helps interested youth become aware of the responsibilities involved with babysitting and the importance of their role as the caregiver. Next, she helps families who have an adult serving in the military through the 4-H Military grant. In this role, she works largely with the Massachusetts National Guard Child and Youth Program to ensure they are aware of the 4-H resources and opportunities available for military youth and adults. Finally, Wallace-Hiltpold works with 4-H Teen Ambassadors in northeastern Massachusetts. Teen Ambassadors are adolescents who are able to attend community events to help expand interest in 4-H programs. For example, they might organize an event, help with community service or meet with interested youth and adults to discuss the range of 4-H choices.
On any given day, Wallace-Hiltpold juggles many of these things all at once. She might undertake a new event with related trainings or she could be found with the phone to her ear searching for additional community partners. She will often check in with past collaborators to explore further opportunities to work together. As she prepares for numerous public events and accompanying informational tables, she shines up a button she sports with the declaration: WOW, 4-H Does That! Wallace-Hiltpold says, “This is a nice way to remind people that 4-H does so much more than most people realize.”
Her community partners sing her praises. Colleen Davis, Youth Programs Director at Hanscom Air Force Base, says, “Va Shon is absolutely phenomenal. She is very knowledgeable and the kids enjoy learning from her.” Wallace-Hiltpold provides engaging annual staff trainings regarding existing and new 4-H programs. Depending on the needs and interests of the students, she offers science curriculum on a wide range of topics. Davis said, “Va Shon is a great resource for school age K-12 year old children as well as teens, We are lucky to have her expertise.”
The Massachusetts 4-H babysitting program receives rave reviews, as well it should. Remarkably, they train 1,000 students each year. Wallace-Hiltpold describes their popular curriculum as “visionary.” A word that can also be used to define this energetic youth educator.