4-H leader earns statewide recognition

Jennifer Saunders honored for breadth and scope of work
By 
Deb Hill
News-Argus Managing Editor
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
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Jennifer Saunders

Jennifer Saunders, Fergus/Petroleum 4-H program assistant, was recognized Sunday for her years of supporting local 4-Hrs with a prestigious statewide award. Saunders was surprised by a special presentation during the virtual county awards ceremony.
Saunders said she was quite surprised when her award was announced during the online meeting. She actually received it the first time during the 4-H annual conference, also held virtually, but unfortunately she was on the phone handling 4-H business and missed the entire first presentation.
“Emily [Standley], who nominated me, came into my office after the annual conference and asked, “Were you on the phone the whole time?” Saunders remembered. “And I had to say yes, I was, because it was 4-H enrollment, a very busy time.”
Since Saunders missed seeing the first presentation of her Meritorious Support Service award, Standley arranged for the award to be presented as a surprise this past weekend.
“The 4-H Ambassadors created a 4-H Jeopardy game about me,” Saunders said. “I was very surprised.”
Saunders was also recognized by the state 4-H director.
“It is my pleasure to present this meritorious support award, which pays tribute to staff who support the mission, program and professional staff of the co-op extension program,” said Todd Kesner, director of the Montana 4-H program. “What makes this award so special is that it is given by an individual’s peers around the state.”

Fergus/Petroleum Ag Extension Agent Emily Standley said there are few who embody 4-H the way Saunders does.
“Jennifer has been a role model for thousands of 4-H members and leaders over the years. She is passionate about providing a safe, encouraging space for children to learn and grow, and we often say she ‘bleeds green’ because she is a true embodiment of the 4-H pledge,” Standley wrote in her nomination of Saunders.
The title of 4-H assistant doesn’t capture the enormity of the position. Saunders is responsible for organizing senior, tween, junior and Cloverbud camps; 4-H project days of all sorts; county awards programs; local leader trainings; ambassador programs; and the 4-H portion of the county fair.
In addition Saunders coordinates the 4-H Leaders Council and works many hours during the fair to make sure the livestock barn runs smoothly.
Saunders said she has been with the program, working out of the Extension Office, for almost 23 years.
“My kids, now adults, had both started school when I began working for Extension,” she said.
In addition to her work for 4-H, Saunders is active in the community, volunteering with the Lewistown Downtown Association, the Boys and Girls Club, Winter Fair, Longest Table and other community programs and events.
“We often hear the phrase, ‘How does she do it all?’” Standley said. “Her volunteering has further connected Extension to the community, and paved the way for many new programs that have come from our office.”
Standley said she and her colleagues agree, “Jennifer is incredibly deserving of this award.”
 “She is admired by 4-H members, leaders, parents and the community members alike,” Standley said. “Extension in Fergus/Petroleum counties would not be the same without her.”

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