Lincoln, Neb. —Eric Stehlik is a 4-H Associate in Saline County and has served there for over 30 years. His continued service doesn’t go unnoticed, especially as he retires from Extension. He is well-known in his county for introducing many programs throughout his years of employment. After speaking to some of the many people, he has worked with over the years, it is evident that Eric will be missed in Nebraska 4-H.
“Over the years, Eric has been a vital part of 4-H and has reached literally thousands of young people by offering them environments where they can hone their leadership skills, expand their understanding of content areas such as STEM, healthy living, ag literacy and practice their critical thinking skills,” said Kathleen Lodl, Nebraska Extension Associate Dean and State 4-H Program leader.
Who is Eric?
Stehlik received a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Concordia University and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Sheep Management and Technology from Colby Community College.
His passion for the sheep industry has been a constant through his career as he could be seen in the show ring at the sheep show at State Fair. Rhonda Herrick, Extension Educator in Kearney and Franklin Counties, recalls him encouraging young people to do their best and helping youth see something from a different perspective.
Eric moved a house onto an acreage down the road from where he grew up and helped his father raise corn, soybeans, cattle, sheep and hogs. He enjoyed improving the acreage as he has proven to have quite a green thumb. Eric is quite proud of his Dorset sheep flock and played a significant role in helping 4-Her’s with their 4-H sheep projects.
The Role of a 4-H Assistant
Statewide, 4-H assistants not only engage young people in meaningful learning experiences, but they also provide the foundation for positive youth development.
“They are seen as role models and often provide the “spark” that can help youth determine their interests and potentially help them identify a career path,” Lodl said.
“It is evident that the 4-H assistants play a vital role in educating 4-H youth.”
Darci Pesek, 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator in Jefferson County says, “Eric has been a dedicated 4-H youth program worker for many years. He is well-known in his county for developing numerous programs throughout his years of employment. Everything he does is to provide a high-quality learning experience for youth.”
One of the activities that Eric is recognized for is teaching the youth about embryology. He has been known to be the “egg guy” and many past students remember him from coming into their 3rd grade classrooms.
Herrick says that Eric also is known for a lesson about animal body systems relating to the skeletal system and teaches youth where their food comes from. “Teachers who attend this program will tell you the skeletal session is outstanding,” says Herrick.
A Career of Bountiful Memories
All of Eric’s co-workers have nothing but great things to remember from working with him over the years. Randy Pryor, Emeriti Extension Educator, said he could always count on Eric going the extra mile and being there working extra for the kids.
“There are so many behind the scenes things that he does that most people don’t even realize and there will be a large hole to try to fill when he retires.”
Eric didn’t mind this when he was younger, “it’s about the youth” is what Stehlik says.
Going into retirement, many of his co-workers can see him spending his time volunteering in 4-H, helping out in his community, and enjoying his sheep. Additionally, he is a member of the Dorchester Foundation and Saline County Tourism Committee. He has been active as a member of NCEA (Nebraska Cooperative Extension Association) and a volunteer at the Nebraska State Fair and Ak-Sar-Ben for many years.
Many of his co-workers can relate to what Herrick says about his impact.
“Eric’s impact on young people across this state is hard to match. He has truly been a champion for 4-H. Eric is a dynamic individual who is passionate about what he does. It has truly been an honor to work with this man throughout his career.
Thank you, Eric, for all of your hard work and dedication to the 4-H Program in Nebraska, happy retirement.