Chris Boleman garners AgriLife Extension Superior Service Award for leadership

COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Chris Boleman, 4-H and Youth Development Program director, has received a Superior Service Award from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in the Leadership category.

The award, the highest bestowed by the agency, recognizes AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in education or to the agency. The award was presented Jan. 8 during the agency’s Centennial Conference in College Station.

In his award nomination, Boleman was described as a “passionate, enthusiastic and visionary leader” whose commitment, dedication and sincere desire allows the agency to “offer the best youth development program in the state and nation.”

For the past five years, Boleman has served as the director of the Texas 4-H and Youth Development Program. During that time, he has developed a team of 4-H specialists at the state 4-H office to provide leadership to programs based on their strengths and areas of expertise. This has resulted in specialist positions committed to high profile programs, such as youth livestock, healthy lifestyles, natural resources and science.

According to the nomination, one of Boleman’s top program accomplishments has been the development and support of the statewide One Day 4-H initiative. Boleman, working closely with Dr. Toby Lepley, 4-H and youth development specialist, initiated the first-ever One Day 4-H community service effort for Texas – an effort that has since been replicated each October during National 4-H Week.

Since 2009, more than 40,000 youth, adults and non-4-H youth have been involved in 847 One Day 4-H service projects, which have led to 294,000 volunteer hours contributed, valued at more than $6.4 million. The projects have reached more than 1 million Texas citizens and resulted in $322,921 raised for causes and organizations, $243,337 in-kind donations acquired, 144,713 pounds of food collected, 17,596 care packages made and delivered, 295 miles of beaches and roads cleaned, and 1,165 additional organizations involved in the projects.

Another major accomplishment has been Boleman’s support of the annual 4-H Roundup, particularly the promotion and expansion of the event’s invitational contests. Since 2010, Texas 4-H Roundup has offered invitational contests, which are open to younger, intermediate 4-H members. As a result, an additional 1,693 youth have participated in 4-H Roundup since 2010 through 13 invitational contests, which do not require pre-qualification in order to participate. He also spearheaded the effort to take the Texas 4-H Roundup to the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock for the first time in history, where participation surpassed 4,000 youth and adults for the first time.

In a letter supporting Boleman’s nomination, Joel Crowley, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and a member of the board of trustees of the Texas 4-H Youth Development Foundation, stated he was “impressed with (Boleman’s) ability to connect with youth through creative programming and technology” and his “willingness to go above and beyond” in reaching youth and achieving program goals.

The nomination also cited Boleman for implementing 4-H Tweet-Ups — informal conversations held via Twitter in which those in the Texas 4-H Program can ask questions to get feedback, as well as share information. The first Tweet-Up held in 2012 reached more than 55,000 Twitter accounts, and additional subject-matter-specific Tweet-Ups have been conducted since.

The success of the Tweet-Up was taken further with the implementation of 4-H Leadership LIVE, an online leadership development virtual training conducted via the Internet. The training incorporates a Tweet-Up in order for youth and adult participants to interact with the speakers by asking questions or sharing comments. More than 400 have participated in Leadership LIVE, with participants representing Texas, Arizona and Maryland, as well as Canada.

Under Boleman’s leadership, the first-ever statewide 4-H Volunteer Conference was held in 2011, and has since become an annual event. His involvement and leadership in the statewide Food Challenge has resulted in the event evolving into the largest qualifying contest held at Texas 4-H Roundup — and one that has been adopted at the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo and Brazos Valley Fair in Texas, as well as in other states.

Boleman has also played an integral role in the development of other programs, including the Quality Counts Certification Program, Golf Challenge, AgID Contest, Fitness Challenge, Livestock and Equine Ambassador Programs, and Science, Engineering and Technology programs. He also has helped the Military 4-H Program grow to 41 clubs on military installations and club membership to grow to more than 3,500 youth.

Working with the agency’s senior administrative leadership team, he helped develop Texas 4-H Inc., a nonprofit umbrella organization for every 4-H club in the state, which has for the first time allowed the 4-H Program to maintain a liability insurance policy. And his skillful and well-communicated message of the need for a $20 participation fee in the first year brought $720,000 back to the agency to help secure county positions.

In another support letter, members of the past president’s council of the Texas Association of Extension 4-H Agents described Boleman as a “people person” and “the essence of leadership,” as well as someone who is “supportive of hearing new ideas” and “an advocate for change.”

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