Sometimes, the experiential learning or “learning by doing” that is an integral part of the University of Findlay academic experience goes beyond students’ time at UF. Many are blessed with the opportunity to not only take the methods they’ve learned out into the world, but to utilize the philosophy themselves, making it a part of how they work with people in their careers. In fact, for Tori Kirian ‘18, that is exactly the case in her relatively new position as the educator for 4-H Youth Development in Hancock County through Ohio State University Extension.
“Some days we are prepping for what most think of when they think of 4-H – camp, fair, judging – but we also have school enrichment programs, such as Real Money, Real World and STEM and creativity programming. We are here to help youth grow and develop to become the leaders of the future,” Kirian said.
As a youth herself, Kirian spent 11 years as member of 4-H in Crawford County filling a myriad of roles. She was a camp counselor, on the Junior Fair Board and a member of the Royalty Court, and, as a result of that experience and growing up with a family raising cattle and grain farming, had a good idea of what to look for in an Animal Science Program when starting to look at colleges. “I visited UF as a senior in high school, and immediately fell in love with campus and the animal science barns,” she explained. “Everyone was so welcoming.” She liked, as well, that it was close to her home, and she was so convinced that it was the place for her that it was the only college to which she applied. “I was hopeful,” Kirian added.
Hope turned into reality as Kirian was accepted and started her academic career as an Oiler in the fall of 2014. She settled into her life as a resident of Bare Hall and began to get involved right away in programs like Collegiate Future Farmers of America and Block and Bridle. She added a position working at the animal science barns to her involvement during her junior year. “I think my favorite memories [at UF] were out at the animal science barn,” Kirian said. “While we spent many hours working, it really did not feel like work. We laughed, we learned, we taught, but most of all we made memories. [It] led me to truly fall in love with education in a non-traditional setting; also known as not always in the classroom.” As one of four interns during her senior year, she said, she learned how to work with audiences with different backgrounds and experiences, like the clientele she sees as a 4-H educator. “We were working with students from a variety of geographical locations,” Kirian said, “some urban, some rural, even a few international students. Students had farm background, some had small animal experience, and some did not have animal experience. We also worked with high school visitors and other various groups.” Additionally, she created weekly quizzes and lessons about various aspects of livestock production, careers in animal science, and agriculture in general. Kirian’s ability to inform and educate was quickly being sharpened.
Her immersion in this interest of animal science and campus life led her to first begin exploring and researching OSU’s Extension Program – the world’s largest non-formal educational system wherein professionals address the needs of the local community while also addressing state, national, and global issues – by applying for a summer 4-H Program assistant position. After being hired and getting to know the work, Kirian said, she found that it was something she would definitely continue to pursue. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a science focus and a chemistry minor, and took on her current position in June of this year. Among the many benefits of her chosen path has been her ability to carry the skills she collected through her time at UF and in her initial endeavor with 4-H into her professional life, working actively to create and alter programs for the youth in the community. As the 4-H youth development educator, her responsibility for helping the youth in Hancock County grow is something that she cherishes, and it’s akin to the growth she experienced at UF through the same hands-on methods. That makes learning easier and more interesting for the kids she works with, she said. “Every day is different, and every day is an adventure,” Kirian added.
And so, as the calendar moves into August the adventure continues, and preparations for Livestock Project Evaluations, the Hancock County Fair, and school enrichment programs are moving into full swing for her and the program. Her goals are, again, not unlike the goals we look toward at UF for our students to lead meaningful lives and have productive careers, and because of that, she knows she made the right decision career-wise. “I love being able to work with the youth and help prepare them for the future – wherever life may lead,” she said.
As for her time at UF helping to mold her into the person who instills the same values and teaches similar skills to those she, herself, learned as a UF student, she’ll forever be convinced she made the right decision in becoming an Oiler as well. “I first visited UF in middle school for a volleyball tournament, and I even loved the campus then – way before I even thought about college. I absolutely loved my time at Findlay. It just felt like home,” she said.