Jacobs photo

Extension Educator Peg Grillo and Bill Jacobs.

Congratulations to New Haven County 4-H volunteer Bill Jacobs, who was recently selected as this year’s recipient of the Salute to Excellence Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award.

William (Bill) Jacobs is in his ninth year as a 4-H volunteer in New Haven County, CT. He works as a Vocational/Transition Coordinator for Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES), a regional public school that provides schools and programs for students with regular education, special education and talented and gifted needs. He is located at Whitney High East/ West and CREATE, a high school and post high school school for students with special needs. The school has committed itself to the incorporation of 4-H club work to give special needs students with all levels of abilities the opportunity to participate in 4-H activities, integrate their school programs into 4-H and learn new skills to better prepare them for the adult world.

Nine years ago this Cooperative Extension Educator was approached by the vice principal of ACES to collaborate and apply for a three year recreational grant with the Dept. of Education yearly to provide gardening, work force preparation and leadership skills to special needs youth aged 13-22. About $120,000 was awarded the first year, $100,000 the second and ending with $80,000 the third year. These funds provided transportation to classes, supplies for making gardens both on school property and in a neighborhood garden and field trips to the University of Connecticut at Storrs and Eastern States Exposition, along with learning work-force prep skills.

Bill was asked to be lead teacher in establishing the 4-H program in all the classrooms. He took on this role with gusto, encouraging every classroom to select a project, meet as a 4-H club weekly and participate in some of the county 4-H activities. He was responsible for collecting registration forms, volunteer applications and assisting with training of the teachers. The group also went to Lyman Hall in Wallingford for weekly classes with their vo-ag teachers in both gardening and animal science. Bill was responsible for arranging these classes. 170 youth became registered as 4-H members along with over 15 adult volunteer leaders. He also took on the role of chief collaborator and liaison between the school personnel, extension staff and area vo-ag schools, taking on leadership in writing the yearly re-submission of the grant for the first three years.

Bill organizes the yearly 4-H Fair that is held each May and designed to showcase the work of the students. After the first three years, the grant funding ended and it looked like the 4-H program might end along with it. Bill was able to inspire the teachers and youth to continue, finding some funding to conduct 4-H activities and keep both the 4-H clubs and the 4-H the fair going. Congratulations Bill, and thank you for all you do!