WARSAW — When she is able to “make it happen” for a young person, it’s the best part of Mindy Wise’s job. She is the 4-H youth development educator for the Kosciusko County Purdue Extension Office in Warsaw.
Wise has served in that position since June 2014 after teaching English for five years at Manchester Junior and Senior High School.
A native of Whitley County who lived on a farm near Collamer and a 2005 graduate of Whitko High School, she enrolled at what was then known as Manchester College (it is now a university). While there she majored in secondary education and eventually graduated in 2009.
Her intent was to become a teacher. “I always knew I wanted to teach somebody something,” she said, “and I enjoyed English.” While teaching at Manchester, Wise earned a master’s degree in curriculum development from Concordia University in Portland, Ore.
She noted she had both good and not so good experiences with student teachers while in high school and also had some encouragement from peers while helping them. “They said ‘you are really good at this so you might want to try it,’” concerning teaching.
But teaching English could be a struggle at times, especially with those who were good kids but were better with hands-on skills. “It could be frustrating at times,” she said.
Wise had been a volunteer with 4-H in Kosciusko County as a livestock judging coach and was familiar with the Purdue Extension Office. When the youth development educator position opened, she applied. “I wanted to explore something different,” she said. “It was more consistent and I could work with kids on what they want to do,” noting it was difficult to convince some of her English students why they, for example, needed to read Shakespeare.
At the Extension office she manages the adult volunteers in the 4-H program, some 275 of them in Kosciusko County. She assists them and their families in registering, communicates new Purdue policies and procedures to the volunteers and manages the finances. She also does outreach with youth serving organizations, networks with other nonprofit organizations and helps with after school programs for at-risk youth.
Working with the volunteers also involves taking them through the screening process, explaining their role as volunteers and doing training for them. “I help them apply for grants and talk to them about what other opportunities are available outside of 4-H for youth,” she added.
Growing up on a farm, being a 10-year 4-H member and also being in FFA has been a benefit in her position with Purdue Extension. She understands the structure of 4-H clubs and what is expected at exhibits. But it can, at times, also be a hindrance. “It is hard to think out of the box because you are used to doing things a certain way,” she noted.
A goal of hers is to find ways to connect with new audiences. Although 4-H is often generational, there are young people to be reached who have never grown up on a farm or have never been involved in 4-H.
Wise said the best part of her job is asking a young person what they enjoy doing, hearing their ideas and then making it happen. “It is nice when you can put feet under an idea and make it happen,” she commented, acknowledging the reality sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Mindy is married to Jake Wise, they live near Packerton and have two daughters: Kaylyn, age 3; and Molly, 9 months old. Mindy enjoys quilting and is part of the “Packerton Piecers,” a quilting group at her church, Packerton United Methodist.