(10/24/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — Described as a “visionary” and “inspiration” by colleagues, Saralene Seals was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in a ceremony held earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
In her nearly two-decade career, Seals has had a tremendous impact on thousands of youths and adults through her service to 4-H and the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, serving as a 4-H food and nutrition home economics specialist and project leader, 4-H curriculum specialist, state board advisor, National 4-H health curriculum advisory member and, in retirement, a 4-H judge, donor and ambassador.
A youth development scholar, Seals was a proponent of youth leadership, establishing the Louisiana 4-H Food and Fitness Board in 1999. Always motivated to engage youth in experiences providing valuable, practical life lessons, under her guidance, the board implemented annual educational trips to agencies such as Cooper Institute and Southern Methodist Hospital.
Through the years, Seals worked tirelessly to create a diverse and inclusive board climate as well as allow youth from marginalized and low-resourced populations to recognize their leadership ability. Through her encouragement, she coached youth to pursue careers in industries they would have otherwise thought were unobtainable, including nutrition, dietetics, exercise and food science, which changed the course of many lives.
Monique Hebert Sanchez, a 4-H alumna and Acadiana Christian School principal, shared how Seals helped shape her life and career.
“Dr. Seals has always been committed to developing young leaders within 4-H. As a former Food and Fitness president, she was instrumental in preparing me for the various leadership roles I would serve in the future, including a 4-H agent and school principal,” Sanchez said. “Her vision for developing youth leaders was always bigger than anything else I experienced as a child. From board meetings to developing lessons to coordinating out-of-state trips, she provided thousands of youths with experiences that molded our character and prepared us for the workforce.”
One of Seals’ most outstanding achievements was the 1988 development and construction of the Hathorn Fitness Trail at Camp Grant Walker. With the assistance of the LSU exercise physiology department, she partnered with 4-H faculty across the state to manually install trail stations. As a result of many weekends of collaborative service, the Hathorn Trail, which is still in use today, has become a critical component of camp programming, reaching more than 60,000 Louisiana youth.
After earning her doctorate in vocational education with an emphasis in nutrition education from LSU, Seals supported curriculum development, designing age-appropriate, engaging programs. Seals also spearheaded and developed several statewide 4-H individual and team competitions — one of which allowed youth to create a daily menu based on dietary guidelines and present it to a panel of judges, developing knowledge and skills in nutrition, presentation and management.
Lanette Hebert, 4-H coordinator for the AgCenter Southwest Region, considers Seals a mentor and said the Hall of Fame honor is much deserved.
“Dr. Seals has had a tremendous influence on me. As a 4-H member, her encouragement and the opportunities she provided to me influenced my career choice,” Hebert said. “As a 4-H agent, she was a role model for me and many others as she is a visionary leader that was instrumental in providing critical professional development for agents as well as establishing programs that are still impactful today.”
For her part, the modest Seals said she is honored by the induction but, true to form, shares the credit with those she has worked with over the years.
“4-H ignited my passion for integrating experiential learning into nutrition education,” Seals said. “This cherished award is shared with agents and youth who launched my new programs.”
Saralene Seals was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame Oct. 7 at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. Photo by Dan Tabler/National 4-H
Saralene Seals presents the Saralene Seals 4-H Scholarship to 2022 recipient, Annaclaire Zerangue. Seals established this scholarship to support and acknowledge members in the healthy living project area with priority given to Louisiana 4-H Food and Fitness Board members. Seals was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame Oct. 7. Photo by Lanette Hebert/LSU AgCenter