Angie Freel, a 4-H administrator in Arkansas, has been named the new director of the University of Idaho Extension’s 4-H Youth Development program.
Freel replaces James Lindstrom, who retired.
Freel started her career in 4-H in 1996 at the University of Arkansas state 4-H office in Little Rock.
“I had the opportunity to watch (4-H members) grow through the experience of being in 4-H, and that’s because they had mentors at the club level, they had each other and they went to state and national events,” Freel said. “I would watch this kid who was scared to get up in front of a group of people and say anything, get up and give a persuasive speech that had me crying at the end. It was really evident how good 4-H is for our communities.”
Later, Freel’s own three children became 4-H members.
She believes 4-H is unique in that it teaches leadership and public speaking skills to the entire family. Parents serve as volunteers and mentors to help run 4-H and get to attend their own state and national training events.
“We get to change lives literally every day,” Freel said.
Over the course of 18 years, she worked as a 4-H agent in four Arkansas counties, before being promoted to 4-H STEM coordinator in 2014. In 2018, she was asked to fill in as the interim associate department head over 4-H.
In 2020, she was named University of Arkansas’ 4-H department head.
Freel earned a family and consumer sciences bachelor’s degree in 1996 from University of Central Arkansas. She also earned a pair of graduate degrees from University of Arkansas while employed there — a master’s degree in human development and family studies in 2004 and a doctorate in human resources and workforce development in 2020.
While attending national 4-H conferences on behalf of the University of Arkansas program, Freel said she was impressed by the camaraderie and teamwork she witnessed among the University of Idaho group.
UI Extension has been an innovator in pushing the limits of 4-H content, and Freel looks forward to moving the program even further ahead. For example, U of I’s new “Learn Everywhere with 4-H” program was approved by the Idaho State Board of Education last fall and will offer extended learning opportunities for K-12 public school students. The program will focus on middle-schoolers starting this spring and will eventually award credits that will apply toward high school graduation outside of the classroom.
“To me that proves that there’s a really good relationship between the different entities outside of the university because it’s going to take a lot of different partnerships to make that happen,” Freel said.
Creative partnerships with AmeriCorps and the Juntos program, through which 4-H staff support academic success among Latinx youth in grades 8-12, also set Idaho 4-H apart, Freel said. She is impressed by how the Idaho 4-H program is structured, with district leaders placed in each region of the state to be in closer proximity with county staff.
Freel plans to share a couple of favorite programs with the Vandal community from her time in Arkansas, including “4-H Food Challenge” patterned after the Food Network show “Chopped,” that challenges youth to make a nutritious meal using ingredients from a sack, and then to speak in detail about their creations.
Freel and her husband, Monty, who is a licensed home inspector, enjoy remodeling homes together. She plans to try snowmobiling for the first time and spend time hiking, biking, fly fishing and skiing. Moving to the West also brings her closer to her brother, who lives near Salt Lake City.