The Penn State Extension of Lebanon County recently welcomed Julie Weaver as its second 4-H educator. The new position is funded by the Lebanon County Commissioners.

Weaver will work alongside Martha Gregory, who served as the sole 4-H educator for Lebanon County’s Penn State Extension branch for many years.

Weaver will also work with Debbie Tice, who is a program assistant for the Penn State Extension of Lebanon County, to support the different 4-H clubs in the county, including Dairy Beef, Goat, Livestock, Poultry, Rabbit & Cavy, NorLebCo Dairy, and NoSoAnn Dairy.

Perry County native Weaver was an active 4-H member herself from the age of 8 to 18. During her time in the program, Weaver said she developed the skills of working with her hands, public speaking, and time management.

“Perhaps one of the biggest things … was my more non-animal-based projects,” Weaver said. “It gave me an opportunity to learn things that I continue to enjoy.”

Weaver learned how to sew, quilt, and crochet in 4-H and continues to use those skills as an adult.

Julie Weaver poses with her very first 4-H project, an applique pillow that won the “Clover Award” and first place at the Perry County Fair in the early 1990s. (Provided by Julie Weaver)

“Being part of that club, I then saw other 4-H members in my county who were members of the livestock club,” Weaver said. “And so, I joined the livestock club a couple years later. … My first project animals were two market goats. And I instantly fell in love with goats. But then, that quickly progressed to raising sheep and pigs and a steer that was the 2001 Perry County grand champion, which was pretty fun.

“And that … gave me the opportunity to start pursuing other aspects of agriculture.”

Weaver attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences because her high school did not have an FFA chapter at the time. In addition to FFA, “4-H really gave me the foundation for … wanting to pursue some aspect of agriculture, again, into college and as a career,” she said.

After graduating from the 4-H program, Weaver went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from Penn State, worked for Dairy One, and returned to Penn State to complete post-grad work focused on agricultural extension and education. Weaver also earned a teaching certificate.

Weaver moved to Lebanon County over a decade ago when she married her husband. They owned Climb High Tree Service, a tree service company based in the county, until selling it at the end of last year.

Selling the tree service company “kind of gave me an opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do next,” Weaver said. “And I kind of always knew that I was an educator … even in the world of arboriculture.”

Weaver taught a variety of agriculture and science courses at middle schools and high schools in public and private school districts. She left the profession several years ago to work full-time at Climb High Tree Service as an ISA Certified Arborist.

She was exploring her career options — working as a part-time educator aide at ZooAmerica, a position she started this spring — but wasn’t necessarily looking for full-time employment as she was involved with the business her husband started at the beginning of this year.

“When I saw this position come available, I knew I had to at least try for it,” Weaver said.

She stumbled across a post about the position on an acquaintance’s Facebook page. She applied and was offered the position.

In addition to being located in the county where she lives, Weaver said she was drawn to the position because she dreamed of becoming a teacher or an extension educator as a youth.

“My extension educator in Perry County, Becky Kaucher, was pretty influential in my 4-H career. And she was always a strong female that I looked up to. The other was my high school biology teacher, Mrs. Becker,” Weaver said. “I always thought I wanted to be either Mrs. Becker or Becky when I grew up.”

The position involves creating and installing an age-appropriate educational program for youth that teaches project skills, offers experiential learning opportunities, and generally supports healthy youth development. It also involves supporting 4-H volunteers.

“We have a lot of volunteers, volunteer leaders. Our 4-H certainly could not function or be as successful as it is in impacting lives of youth without our volunteers,” Weaver said. “So, a big part of my responsibilities will be working with our volunteers and giving them the resources and helping them to develop the skills that they need to provide … 4-H programming for our youth.”

Weaver said Gregory, Tice, and youth development extension educators in surrounding counties will serve as resources as she starts out in the position. “Penn State has also done a really great job of giving me resources to help get me started,” she added.

Once Weaver has settled into the position, she hopes to build community partnerships and leverage her experiences to increase the county’s 4-H offerings.

“We already have a high number of youth that are involved,” Weaver said. “… But I do want to reach kind of some unreached youth. So maybe some work in the City of Lebanon, working with some of the existing youth programs there. But I also would like to bring in perhaps new opportunities, new 4-H clubs or programs that Lebanon County doesn’t have or hasn’t had in a while.”

One 4-H club that Weaver would like to see return to the county is the seeing-eye puppy club. She raised seeing-eye puppies during her time in the program, stopped when she went to college, and recently picked it back up. Toma, her seventh seeing-eye puppy, was lying under her work desk, “taking a nap,” as she was phone-interviewed by LebTown.

Julie Weaver poses with three seeing-eye puppies. Yannick, the 3-year-old black Lab, was released from the program due to Stargardt disease. Upton, the yellow Lab, returned to the program at the end of June to learn how to guide. Toma, the 6-month-old chocolate Lab, is Weaver’s seventh seeing-eye puppy. (Provided by Julie Weaver)

“I’ve been going to the Lancaster County club with my own puppy-raising experiences,” Weaver said. “But perhaps we might get enough members interested, especially if they see me with the puppies that I’m raising at different events. Maybe perhaps we could have a Lebanon County 4-H seeing-eye puppy club.”

In addition to raising see-eye puppies, Weaver raises bees for honey. She would like to see beekeeping and shooting sports, which have recently become more popular in surrounding counties, be added to Lebanon County’s 4-H offerings.

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Lexi Gonzalez is a reporter for LebTown. She is currently completing her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.


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