Young People Challenged At LSU AgCenter Camps

Rebecca K. Owen, Coolman, Denise, Morgan, Johnny W.

Teamwork. 4-H'ers who participate in LSU AgCenter Challenge Camps learn Sci-Tech, team-building and leadership skills. And most of them agree that canoeing is hard work but helps them to learn how to work as a team.

Reaching Goals. Jean Halsell explains how the space shuttles her son, NASA astronaut Jim Halsell, flies. Halsell spoke about reaching goals during an LSU AgCenter Challenge Camp held at the Grant Walker Educational Center near Pollock.

Distributed 04/06/04

Young people from across Louisiana are being challenged to solve problems, work in teams and learn a variety of other skills during special camps offered by the LSU AgCenter.

The camps, dubbed "Challenge Camps," are operated as part of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H youth development program. Students in middle-school grades attend the camps and hear advice on how to succeed in life.

"Space" was the theme for an April 1-3 Challenge Camp, which was targeted to young people from northeastern Louisiana, at the LSU AgCenter’s Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center near Pollock. So a part of the advice they received naturally came from Jean Halsell, mother of NASA astronaut Jim Halsell, of West Monroe.

Halsell spoke to the group about how what they do now can affect their futures and how making the right decisions as a young person can help a person succeed as an adult.

"When Jim was your age, we flew a lot as a family," Halsell said. "The first time Jim got in the plane, he said ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’ And he started working toward that goal then. Everything he did, he did with the thought that he was going to be a pilot one day."

Halsell said her son decided that if he was going to fly, he was "going to fly the highest and the fastest."

To do that, Jim Halsell found out that he had to make outstanding grades in high school, she said, explaining that her son went on to the U.S. Air Force Academy, pursued graduate degrees and was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 1990. Now he has flown five missions as a pilot and a mission commander and has logged more than 1,250 hours in space.

"Jim has been very successful because he decided what he wanted to do and he went for it," Halsell told the youngsters.

"You can be just as successful. Decide now what you want to do in life and latch onto it," Halsell continued. "Whatever it is that you want to do, you be the best at it. Give it everything you’ve got. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out at first. Keep trying."

Becky Owen, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Morehouse Parish, said activities in this camp – like all the others – focused on encouraging the students to work together.

"Learning how to work together in a team is one of the things taught at Challenge Camp," Owen said. "Teamwork is a valuable skill that will not only benefit the young people now, but it is a skill that will benefit them when they are older and out in the workforce."

At another Challenge Camp held recently at Tickfaw State Park for youngsters from South Louisiana, the participants were introduced to activities related to outdoor living.

But Ken Spoto, an LSU AgCenter county agent for East and West Feliciana parishes, said the camp still was about building teamwork among the 4-H’ers, as well as learning other beneficial skills.

"We emphasize Sci-Tech activities like model rocket activities, along with making bubbles and polymers," Spoto said. "It’s a combination of leadership, learning Sci-Tech and teamwork."

Joshua McKelphin, a 4-H’er from Jackson, said the most fun he had was on the canoeing trip.

"I’ve never been canoeing before, so it was a lot of fun," McKelphin said. "I learned that you can do many things that I’ve never done before, like canoeing and the ATV activities."

Beverly Madere, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Jefferson Parish and caretaker for the faint-of-heart, sat dockside to reassure some of the children who were having their first aquatic experience.

"Some of these children need a little encouragement their first time, but everybody is having a great time," Madere said.

Kay Singleton, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in St. Helena Parish, said Challenge Camp offers great opportunities for team-building and increasing leadership skills.

"The young people who come to Challenge Camp are too old for the 4-H summer camps at Camp Grant Walker but are not quite old enough to attend 4-H U at LSU," Singleton explained, saying this offers that in-between age group a chance for an "overnight" learning experience.

"Challenge Camp is a fun-filled, really packed two days to allow them to learn and socialize with people from different areas," Singleton said, adding, "Some are from rural areas and some from urban, even from New Orleans, the big city."

To find out more about Challenge Camps and other educational activities that are part of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program, go to


Beverly Madere at (504) 838-1170 or
Becky Owen at (318) 281-5741 or
Ken Spoto at (225) 683-3101 or
Kay Singleton at (225) 222-4136 or
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or
Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or

4/23/2005 2:25:36 AM
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