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Agricultural News

Dr. Charles Cox Looks Back Over Lengthy, Accomplishment-Filled 4-H Career

Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:35:33 CST

Dr. Charles Cox Looks Back Over Lengthy, Accomplishment-Filled 4-H Career
Dr. Charles Cox recently retired as a long-time leader with 4-H in Oklahoma. He was honored at a reception given in his honor this week in Stillwater.

Cox started his career as a 4-H agent in Woods County in 1979. He then worked in Logan County and was named curriculum specialist with the state office in 1988. He spent the next 25 years serving in a number of capacities and became the State 4-H Program Leader and Assistant Director for Extension in 2006. He provided leadership for numerous programs including curriculum development, shooting sports, state fairs, Oklahoma Youth Expo, 4-H Roundup activities, Collegiate 4-H and many other activities.

At the national level, Cox served in many leadership roles and also spearheaded innovative grant programs in the areas of healthy living and tribal youth mentoring.

Cox spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays about some of the things that have changed over the years and some things that have stayed the same.

"I would say the thing that is the same is the thing that probably needs to stay the same forever and that is the long-term relationships with caring and significant adults because that's what really helps kids be successful. And we see that all the time in 4-H and FFA and other youth programs. And, so, I think that's the hallmark that's so important-those volunteers and parents who are willing to invest in the lives of young people.

"Certainly the projects have changed. There are a lot more than there used to be. As I'm working on some things with the centennial, when I read about some of the agronomic crops that were introduced in different years and a few things kids could do. And, of course, those early corn and tomato clubs and now I think about all the things that they can do from shooting sports and ATVs and, of course, all the livestock things that are kind of a hallmark of the program that are so important."

Oklahoma has always been a shining star in the 4-H nationally. Cox said there are a number of reasons he believes this is so.

"I think a commitment of the people to youth organizations. Oklahoma is still, I think, an agricultural state even though a lot of folks don't derive their income from agriculture. I think people still value the role of agriculture when we see agriculture around us. So, I think the history of that and the leadership that we have from youth programs like 4-H and the number of people that have gone into various leadership roles, whether it's in state government, education, or whatever, that are 4-H alumni. I think that keeps us strong."

During his tenure, Cox has see the 4-H Foundation grow tremendously from the early days when 4-H was barely able to fund its day-to-day activities to the situation now where it is able to fund incredible educational opportunities for students.

"The growth and support of the people in the state has really improved and we're able to provide a lot educational awards to young people to help them go to school and have opportunities to go on trips and see things and do things that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do."

Cox said 4-H from its very inception has been about opportunity. He said that is true to this very day and is what makes the organization so incredibly value to youth.

"I think the value is the opportunity to go places and to do things that they might not otherwise do, to get new experiences. One of the things that we're doing right now through the Department of Juvenile Justice is doing the mentoring programs with Native American youth. And just the opportunity to provide those young people and so many others with the opportunity to get outside their county even, just to see that there is a whole world out there. And that education will help take you to new places and to do new things- I think we still provide an opportunity for young people to learn leadership, citizenship, and life skills that they will use the rest of their lives. It's just a great investment in the future."

Among the highlights of his career, Cox said he was really appreciative to have the opportunity to host the 4-H Agents Association national meeting in Oklahoma City a few years ago. He said it was tremendous to showcase Oklahoma in that way. He also said that he is very proud of the historic role 4-H has played on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater. Over the years thousands upon thousands of 4-H members who later became OSU students were introduced to the university at a very young age through their activities on campus.

One of the professional activities that Cox had a more direct hand in and is very proud of during his career is the Ag in the Classroom program.

"We see great things with our relationship with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the state Department of Education and the thousands of teachers, not only in Oklahoma but nationally, that use that curriculum. And, so, that's another thing that we can be proud of and I know it will continue to grow and improve."


Ron Hays talks with retired 4-H Leader Charles Cox.
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