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4-H volunteers tout youth program in popular podcast

By John O’Connell

University of Idaho

MOSCOW, Idaho – Jeremy Hampton coined the term “pockets of greatness” to describe the amazing and often unheralded stories made possible by University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development.

Hampton and fellow 4-H volunteer Joe Stanley, regularly feature participating youth whose accomplishments rise to being pockets of greatness in a biweekly podcast they launched in mid-June, called Idaho 4-H Roundup.

They consider it a testament to 4-H that these remarkable stories and accomplishments seem to abound in every region of the state, making deciding what content to exclude the hardest part of producing each roughly 45-minute episode.

Hampton, an environmental remediation consultant from Mackay, and Stanley, a lead automation engineer from Potlatch, post episodes at, along with links to donate to 4-H or learn more about the program.

As volunteers, they’ve witnessed countless examples of youth emerging as leaders through 4-H, including members who were shy when they entered the program and struggled to fit in elsewhere. 

“What 4-H really is about is caring adult volunteers creating safe spaces for youth to reach their potential without fear of being mocked, ridiculed or judged, along with excellent curriculum developed in an academic format and delivered by Extension,” Hampton said.

Stanley’s favorite story thus far, included in episode seven, highlights Keira Ferro and Maylee McConnell-Soong, of Caldwell. The girls conducted a needs assessment in their community – where 76% of families in the school district are classified as having limited resources – which led them to address hydration and nutrition among student athletes.

They secured a grant through the National 4-H Council to purchase water bottles for track and field athletes. They also prepared snack bags for the athletes to eat prior to each meet.

In a post-season survey, 84% of athletes indicated the snacks improved their performance.

The girls worked closely with Maureen Toomey, a UI Extension area educator and associate professor of health and wellness, and Lindsey McConnell-Soong, program manager for Idaho’s Well Connected Communities Initiative.

They also prepared a professional poster with project details and results, which they presented in July at the National 4-H Council’s True Leaders in Equity Institute in Washington, D.C.

4-H youth from Utah are interested in implementing a similar project, and the girls plan to produce a guide explaining the steps they followed.

Hampton and Stanley believe the primary purpose of their podcast is communicating about projects organized and led by 4-H youth to members in other parts of the state, who may be inspired by the ideas.

“These are programs that are just outstanding and they’re localized, but they don’t need to be,” Stanley said. “These are programs that could be adapted elsewhere.”

Another popular podcast episode chronicles the Purple Potatoes – the Minidoka County team that placed in the top 10 at the National 4-H LifeSmarts Championship, hosted in April.

LifeSmarts is a comprehensive consumer education program, offering competitions that quiz participants on consumer rights and responsibilities, the environment, health and safety, personal finance and technology.

Some episodes cover big events, such as the 2023 Idaho 4-H Learn, Engage, Act, Develop Summit (Idaho LEADS) hosted Oct. 6-8 at YMCA Camp Horsethief Reservoir.

UI Extension faculty have also been guests on the program, including Angie Freel, director of UI Extension 4-H Youth Development, and Claire Sponseller, area Extension educator of 4-H STEM.

Though Hampton and Stanley are certified 4-H volunteers, the program is not affiliated with the university and the opinions they express are their own.

The podcasts include a few recurring fixtures. In each episode, Stanley asks Hampton a 4-H-related trivia question. Youth are invited to give shout-outs to other 4-H clubs or organizations.

Hampton reviews Facebook pages from 4-H programs throughout Idaho to compile a list of events and activities for their “What’s Happening in 4-H Now” fixture. They conclude each episode with a couple of bad dad jokes.

They’ve been averaging 80 to 120 listeners per podcast, and climbing as new listeners go back and download archived episodes. 

The podcast partners met about seven years ago at a state 4-H event. Hampton was a chaperone, and Stanley was a college staff member. Their paths crossed many more times in the ensuing years at 4-H functions, and they became quick friends.

Hampton became involved in 4-H 17 years ago through his children’s participation. He’s been involved in several 4-H clubs and committees, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean’s Advisory Board and the UI Extension Advisory Board.

Stanley, who earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from U of I, is the acting president of the Idaho Volunteer Association, a position formerly held by Hampton.

Stanley started in 4-H as a Cloverbud – the entry program for 6- to 8-year-olds – and went on to become president of U of I’s collegiate 4-H program. He credits 4-H with helping him “find himself.”

“Early in high school I was about as shy and awkward as they come. That started to change as I got involved in leadership activities in 4-H,” Stanley said. “They found things that were good about me when I couldn’t see them myself. It was a warm and welcoming place that allowed me to try new things.”