Bruce Schultz | 8/16/2005 1:59:58 AM
OPELOUSAS – Jacob Stout is riding the technology wave across the country to learn new things and to meet new people.
As a member of the National 4-H Youth Technology Leadership Team, he’s traveled around the country to learn the latest in computer and communications technology.
Stout, 16, is a sophomore at Westminster Christian Academy in Opelousas – where he found out about the 4-H technology program and its emphasis on computers.
"I figured this is interesting, why not get involved?" the youngster said recently.
At a state 4-H Junior Leadership Conference, he found out about the Louisiana 4-H Technology Board, which helps with 4-H University, doing computer work and taking photographs. Stout also got involved with the LSU AgCenter Web site’s Content Management System.
With that experience under his belt, Stout applied in December for the National 4-H Youth Technology Leadership Team, and, to his surprise, he was among eight students selected from across the United States. Other tech team members are from Kansas, Washington, Utah, Illinois, Indiana, California and Georgia.
4-H is the nationwide youth development and outreach program of the country’s land-grant universities. The program, which is operated by the LSU AgCenter in Louisiana, attempts to help young people develop skills and abilities that will benefit them throughout their lives.
"From that, I’ve met all types of people in 4-H and the USDA who I’ve worked with," Stout said.
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and Extension Service director for Louisiana, said Jacob’s accomplishments are helping the rest of the state’s 4-H members.
"Jacob’s membership on the national team will significantly help us stay abreast of cutting-edge technology advances so that Louisiana can be a leader in youth technology education," Coreil said, stressing that students have to keep current with technology advances.
"In today’s world, all students must continually enhance their information technology skills if they want to be successfully employed after high school, community/technical college or degree attainment at a four-year university," he said. "The 4-H Technology Board helps us meet this challenge and keeps technology in the forefront of all 4-H educational programs."
Deborah Hurlbert of the LSU AgCenter’s state 4-H Youth Development office said Stout took the initiative to pursue an application.
"He called and expressed an interest in that to see if the state 4-H office would support him," Hurlbert said.
Stout has rolled up quite a few frequent flier miles, too, traveling to Nebraska recently for a technology training course with the national 4-H tech team to get the latest on GPS, GIS, computers and digital photography.
"We got to learn together in a lot of different areas," he said.
In April, he attended the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. – where he photographed the event and updated the conference Web site. He also worked at Louisiana’s Southwestern District 4-H Challenge Camp, providing logistical support.
Planning is under way for the July 2006 National 4-H Technology Conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Stout is involved on the event’s steering committee. He went to the university in July to survey its facilities in preparation for the event.
"Today I had to work on a brochure to recruit people to come to this conference," he said recently.
But the Louisiana youngster’s involvement in the technology teams has opened more doors than just learning about new gadgets.
"I’ve learned about the structure of land-grant universities, as well as the LSU AgCenter, and how they work to help people," Stout said.
Technology probably will be part of his career decision in a few years, he said, and he leans toward becoming a lawyer – but "mixed in there with some type of technology."
He also stresses his 4-H experience goes way beyond technology.
"I think 4-H gives you the chance to network with people you never imagined you would meet," Stout said.
For example, Stout said he met several people with USDA during a trip to Washington D.C. "I’ve come away with valuable resources," he stressed.
Stout’s mother, Georgia Stout, said her son has taken to traveling.
"He never stays home," she said. "This child has really been places."
Jacob Stout also was working this summer at a local theater and at the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office running errands. Sheriff Howard Zerangue said he was impressed with the teen’s abilities.
"That’s another Einstein right here," the sheriff said.
Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or firstname.lastname@example.org