Perspectives Online

Leadership Defined - 4-H factors significantly in the success of Park Scholars Jacob Furr and Lacey Martin.

Jacob Furr says his passions are agriculture, education and youth development.
Photo by Daniel Kim

Both are the kind of people who will make significant contributions to the state and country. Both are service-oriented individuals, and to me that’s what leadership is — service above self,” says Dr. Marshall Stewart, state 4-H program leader, describing College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students Jacob Furr and Lacey Martin. With a common background in 4-H, the two Park Scholars are set on their individual paths of defining “what leadership is.”

Jacob Furr: Making an Impact

The first time I said the 4-H pledge, I knew I was going to go to N.C. State. It was an exciting feeling,” says Jacob Furr, now an N.C. State freshman. Such moments of clarity are perhaps unique for 11-year-olds, which is the age Furr was when he joined 4-H and glimpsed his destiny. But then the Park Scholar and Thomas Jefferson Scholar seems to have a laser-like focus on his future and what he needs to do to succeed there.

Furr is pursuing a degree in agricultural and extension education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. As a Jefferson Scholar he also is a political science major in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Last summer, state Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight and state House Speaker Joe Hackney (center, left and right, respectively) met with 2007 state 4-H officers Casey Wentz, Katie Hatley, Rebecca Jones and Furr.
Photo by Daniel Kim
“I chose AEE because that degree is flexible in terms of what I can go into,” says Furr. “I can teach in a classroom and be an FFA adviser or be an Extension 4-H agent. Political science will help me in a career with Cooperative Extension or 4-H on a university level.”

Furr was the 2006-2007 state 4-H president. While still a student at South Stanly High School, he served on the Extension State Advisory Council and was his school’s vice president of FFA, a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of the 4-H Livestock Club and member of the 2005 National Champion 4-H Youth Livestock Skillathon team.

Each accomplishment “is an important part of what I am today,” he says. “Each was a stepping stone that led to the next, and each motivated me to do more and bigger things.” He hopes to go on and receive his master’s degree and doctorate, then eventually work on the state level with a youth organization such as FFA or 4-H.

“In fact,” he adds with a laugh, “I’d love Marshall Stewart’s job someday!”

Stewart, who serves as Furr’s Park Scholar mentor, is head of the CALS Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences, 4-H state program leader and associate director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

“Jacob has made it clear that he intends to have my job, and I hope he can have it,” says Stewart. “He’s a young person who has a heart for service and genuinely cares about giving back. Whatever path he takes, he will make a significant impact.”

One thing that set Furr on his current path was his experience, as a high school sophomore, in Washington, D.C., as a national FFA contest winner for his essay on agricultural risk management strategies.

“It was the first time I had won anything big, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can do something big,’” he says. “During the trip I met Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Richard Burr and Congressman Robin Hayes; toured the USDA and visited the office of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. I thought maybe I, too, could do something to make an impact on the future of agriculture.

“I’ve got three big passions: agriculture, education and youth development. I want to do something involving all three of those,” he says. “I want to be able to see the trends that are coming in those areas, to be ahead of the curve, so I read everything I can get my hands on.”

Furr grew up in Albemarle where his mother, Beckie, is a volunteer 4-H leader and his dad, Bruce, runs the family farm, growing row crops such as cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and oats, and raises about 30 head of cattle. He has two younger brothers, Kyle, 15, and Luke, 9, both 4-H’ers.

“Both look up to me,” he says. “It was exciting when my younger brother said, ‘My brother’s the 4-H president!’ I want to impact them and others on a personal level and motivate them to succeed. There’s a verse in the Bible: God blesses Abraham and basically says, ‘Now you go and be a blessing to others.’ I want to be a blessing to other people.”

It’s a matter of, “what have I done to make a difference in somebody’s life?” he says. “This entire year serving as a (4-H) state officer – I’ve really enjoyed that because my peers chose me as a leader and gave me their blessing, and I was able to make a difference. A young boy came up to me and said, ‘I want to be president some day,’ so I knew I had done something to inspire him.”

When asked about those who have inspired him, he replies, “I would have to say Dr. Stewart’s leadership has influenced me. That’s why I chose him as my [Park Scholar] mentor. Also my high school ag ed teacher Mike Alexander — he was a wonderful adviser. And all three of my Stanly County 4-H agents: Lori Ivey, Beth Bruton and Melody Sikes. All helped me on the path that led me to N.C. State.”

And “one of the things that has helped me is my faith. It’s my foundation,” says Furr.

At N.C. State, where he took 18 hours of courses his first semester, he mentions his poultry science course with Dr. Carm Parkhurst and the introduction to Cooperative Extension course as favorites. In addition to the Park and Jefferson program activities, he’s in the CALS Ag Ed Club and Collegiate 4-H. And when he’s not busy with all that, his current extracurricular reading includes The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman.

A resident of Sullivan Hall, he enjoys attending Wolfpack football games, where, win or lose, he always remains in the stadium till the after-game playing of the N.C. State “Alma Mater,” savoring the moments.

He likewise savors all the opportunities N.C. State affords him, mindful of another motivation for success, the memory of his grandfather, Vernon Furr.

“My grandfather passed away before I entered high school. He was a fourth-generation family farmer — that makes me sixth — and he was the wisest man I knew. He loved working on the farm, in the fields, with the cattle. Watching him when I was young, I wanted to be like him,” Furr says. “He didn’t have the opportunity to go to college. He dropped out in the seventh grade to help support his brothers and sisters.

“I’ve got the opportunity he didn’t have, and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Lacey Martin: Learning is Electric

Lacey Martin, Park Scholar and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences freshman, also has a bead on where she intends her education to take her: “I’ve wanted to do pediatrics since I was four,” she says. A double major in biological sciences and psychology, Martin is also a long-time 4-H’er who says the club “definitely gave me the tools to succeed and do what I’m doing now and will do in the future.”

Lacey Martin was keynote speaker at last year’s National 4-H Curriculum Summit in Maryland.
Photo by Daniel Kim
Martin’s path to N.C. State from her hometown of Conover has been a unique one. “I just love learning. I just love school,” says Martin, for whom “school” has been an unusual mix of private school, homeschool, and community and four-year college courses, with a generous helping of 4-H activities, plus a stint in Raleigh as a governor’s page.

From third through 12th grade, Martin attended Sherwood Lane Academy, the homeschool taught by her mother, Gay, an East Carolina graduate and an elementary and high school level teacher of exceptional children. Martin’s father, Billy, is a certified public accountant.

Homeschool was “very structured,” she says. And that structure was important because, from birth, Martin has had a hearing disability called central auditory processing disorder with hyperacusis. Essentially she hears everything at the same intensity. “The constant noise is stressful,” she says. “Homeschool allowed me to control my environment.”

For lecture classes and similar listening situations, she employs a small device that filters and selects sound according to the position of a microphone and conveys it to her earpieces.

Martin had considered going to public school her sophomore year of high school but instead opted to supplement her homeschooling with courses at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. She also attended a semester of classes at Lenoir Rhyne College, her father’s alma mater, earning both high school and college credits. She arrived at N.C. State with 48 credit hours.

“I am amazed how quickly I’ve adjusted to college life,” she says. “The first week was rough, then things got better.”

For Martin, an aspiring medical student, the favorite event of her freshman year has been meeting the acting U.S. surgeon general, Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu.

Moritsugu was appearing at the N.C. State Millennium Seminar Series in August, coordinated by Mary P. Easley, First Lady of North Carolina and a senior lecturer at N.C. State. Easley invited Martin and her fellow freshman Park Scholars to the Governor’s Mansion to meet the surgeon general. Martin also enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with university Chancellor James L. Oblinger and Provost Larry A. Nielsen on that occasion.

Favorite courses so far have been developmental psychology and human anatomy and physiology, a new two-semester course in the College developed by Dr. Anita Flick, who is Martin’s academic adviser and Park Scholar mentor.

Martin says that next fall her major should change from biological sciences to the new biological sciences with a human biology concentration. “That will be my major with psychology, plus two minors: microbiology and health, medicine and human values.” Then her plan is to go to medical school and focus on pediatric surgery or possibly neurosurgery.

More immediately she’s looking forward to her Park program learning labs, particularly next year’s in Washington, D.C.

While the Park Scholarship was her “biggest reason for coming to N.C. State,” she says, “Even when I’d been here just two weeks, I knew there could be no other school for me. This is the perfect school for me because of all the resources in medical advising, the overall student atmosphere and I know so many alumni through 4-H.”

“I’ve enjoyed watching her come to N.C. State,” says state 4-H program leader Stewart. “She’s very articulate and polished, and she really embodies the leadership characteristics of the role model for other 4-H’ers.”

She started 4-H at the age of 9, not because of an agricultural background, but because her mother saw it as an outlet for the homeschooler.

Martin looks through one of her 4-H Cumulative Record books, an illustrated compilation of three years of 4-H work. A pre-med biological sciences major, she serves as leader of a 4-H health club at a Raleigh high school.
Photo by Daniel Kim
“I have belonged to several different clubs, mainly focused on photography at first, but electricity is what I jumped into,” Martin says, referring to 4-H’s electric program.

The program, through a four-book series of projects, helps youngsters learn about electricity and its safe, efficient use.

Each summer, just before 4-H’s annual Congress in Raleigh, the state’s three energy companies host the 4-H Electric Congress in either western, piedmont or eastern North Carolina. Attendees take part in workshops and earn awards for various energy-related achievements. Martin attended six of these congresses as a 4-H’er.

Martin related some of her “electric” experiences during a keynote speech she delivered last summer as a state representative to National 4-H Curriculum Summit in Maryland. “Through the vast 4-H curriculum … young people can explore a multitude of topics from livestock to computers, textiles to electricity, small-engine repair to animal care,” she told the audience. “I enjoy putting things together with my hands. The 4-H electricity project seemed perfect for me. I completed all four 4-H electricity project books as independent projects.”

She archived her achievements in a 4-H Cumulative Record, one of several three-year compilations of 4-H work that she has completed. And this past fall, over a 13-week period, she taught two groups of 50 fourth-grade students activities from the first 4-H electricity book, Magic of Electricity.

Just as she and her mother had started a homeschool 4-H club, Martin organized a three-county (Catawba, Iredell, Alexander) electricity 4-H club. She now is volunteer leader of this club. She also participates in a 4-H club at N.C. State, the pre-med 4-H club, and serves as the 4-H Health Club leader at Raleigh’s Athens Drive High School.

Martin credits her 4-H “education” for her proficiency in public speaking, organizational skills and the application, resume and interview process. “4-H drills you so hard with their interviews that the Park Scholarship interviews were a piece of cake!” she says.

She also lists Stewart and Sharon Rowland, executive director of development for the Cooperative Extension Service, as inspirations. “Dr. Stewart has been phenomenal. He touches base [with 4-H’ers] and really connects,” she says. “And I would not be where I am today without Sharon Rowland. She helped me stay involved with 4-H, let me know opportunities and kept me motivated.”

Emily Whiteley, her community college biology instructor; Dr. Kenneth Summer, her lifelong physician with whom she’s done two summer internships at the Child Health Center in Hickory; and Dr. Lynn Spees, also her physician and internship sponsor, are also important mentors, she says.

She was looking forward to getting back home during semester break and visiting all of them, along with her family and her two dogs, two cats and three horses. When not studying, she enjoys golf — “I need to get to the driving range!”— and the violin, which she’s played for 10 years.

But it’s still the classroom — the experience of school and of learning — that she loves.

Asked if her scholar status has made her a target of high expectations from her professors, Martin says that, actually, they are more likely to know who she is because of her hearing.

“I’ve always set high goals for myself and normally achieved them,” she says.

I have the high expectations of myself.”