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New face at 4-H

Rachael Fraley started in 4-H when she was a 5-year-old Cloverbud. Seven years later, she knew she had found what she wanted to do when she grew up — work with 4-H. And she hasn’t looked back since.

“I told my dad when I was 12 years old I wanted to do this for the rest of my life,” Fraley said. “I started pursuing this.”

Last month Fraley was named extension educator in 4-H youth development and is gearing up for her next Lawrence County Fair.

“I haven’t missed a fair since I was 5 and now this year I will be working it,” she said. “The fair is a way to showcase what we are doing.”

Over the years the fair has also taught Fraley lessons she uses daily in her new career.

“It definitely teaches you a work ethic,” she said. “It helps with public speaking and gives you confidence. All of the life skills we want to teach our kids are taught through the 4-H program.”

Growing up Fraley split her time between Ironton and her family’s farm at Waterloo. After high school, she studied career and technical education with an agricultural option at the University of Kentucky.

Her goal was laid out: Work in the extension office.

She then received her master’s degree from West Virginia University in agriculture and extension education, which allowed her to work with extension educators in that state. But more importantly, it gave her the foundation she needed to pursue her dream.

Setting a goal and reaching it was one of the major life lessons Fraley learned showing livestock at the county fair, be it lambs, steers or feeder calves.

“It was working with them every evening from start to finish, every summer evening,” she said. “It is a lot of hours. It is a huge time commitment. You work really hard.”

However, as part of her duties as the new extension office educator, Fraley wants people to know there is more to 4-H than simply the county fair.

“4-H offers so much more,” she said. “Our motto is to learn by doing. Like last night, we did a clothing and nutrition clinic. We do afterschool clubs and science experiments.”

There are four components to the philosophy of 4-H, she said — mastery of a skill, belonging to the group, generosity toward one’s community and independence.

One child Fraley will definitely be mentoring in the ways of 4-H is her 9-month-old daughter, Leighton.

“She will be a 4-H baby,” she said.

The commitment to 4-H, both by parents and students, keeps inspiring Fraley as she takes on her new job.

“I was talking to a parent the other day and I teared up when she talked about her kids wanting to win Grand Champion,” Fraley said. “The passion these kids have. I hope I am able to work with them, to help them get the same experiences, to see you can make this into a career. I am going to do this forever.”