Once again, we are addressing the last retirees of our community. After more than 40 years, CSU extension worker Gisele Jefferson retired Dec. 31.
Jefferson began working at the CSU Extension Office on May 1, 1981. This is one of those tough retirements to swallow, as I have personally worked these 40 plus years with Jefferson with my involvement as 4-H and 4 leader – Fair superintendent of department H.
She grew up in Branson, Colorado, where she graduated from Branson High School. She then attended Colorado State University and earned her Professional Education degree in Home Economics. Her original plan was to become a teacher. Fate having intervened, she had to take a course to complete her degree and did not graduate until August, instead of May. By then, all the teaching positions had already been filled, so she returned home to help her parents on their ranch.
While she was at home, she really started thinking about becoming a home economics extension worker. One of his sisters was an agent, and Jefferson thought that might be more fun than being a teacher. She had been in 4-H growing up, so she checked to see if there were any agent positions open. There were two, one in Holyoke and one in Akron. She applied to both places and got the job in Akron.
When she started working, Peggy Bowland was working as a 4-H agent, so Jefferson worked with the home extension side of the job. Dick Travis was the manager, while Stan Pilcher worked on the livestock side of 4-H with his specialty in entomology. Bowland quit in June 1986, as she was getting married and moving house, and then Jefferson covered the home economics and 4-H programs for many years. When Jamie Axtell was appointed livestock specialist a few years ago, Jefferson handed over management of the 4-H program and the livestock aspects of the job.
While in office, she married Kurt Jefferson and they started their family. They have two children and three grandchildren.
“I’ve always felt Akron was my home and never felt like I should try to move forward in expansion. I love Washington County and the Golden Plains area, and I have a lot of friends here,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson always had a lot of hats to wear. She took care of all aspects of 4-H, including the breeding side, all the different programs, 4-H clubs, and everything else in 4-H. This included their annual competitions for Breeding and General Projects, State Fair, Shooting Sports, Fashion Review and more.
From the first year of his career until around 2010, Jefferson was part of the team of extension workers who ran the Golden Plains area 4-H camp each June. This was a 3-4 day tent camping experience with outdoor activities and youth leadership held at rotating locations in Yuma and Kit Carson counties for approximately 50 youth. For many young children, this was their first real camping experience and the first time away from their parents for more than one night. Oh, the experiences and benefits were amazing!
Bowland had already started the weekly summer riding program, called Wednesday Night Riding, and the three horse shows to provide training and practice for the many 4-H members of the riding project. Jefferson inherited this program with the departure of Bowland and continued to work with Tom and Sue Quint, Lisa Crumley and Bubs Eskew for the program’s many years.
She also helped start the NE Colorado Youth Water Fest held annually in Wray for college kids from northeast Colorado. The program ran from the mid-1980s to 2019. She also worked closely with Dave Schultz to launch the very fun and rewarding 4-H Shooting Sports program around the same time; and continued to work with Randy Schoenecker as County Manager until 2021.
The 4-H interstate exchange program was another of Jefferson’s favorites. From the early 1980s to around 2006, teenage 4-H in Washington County gained impressive life and travel experiences by organizing and taking turns traveling with 4-H clubs in other states. This program offered opportunities unlike any other 4-H program. Jefferson recalls special memories of barbecues, swimming parties, bowling, and showing off our Colorado Rocky Mountains while welcoming our 4-H guests. This program had nothing to do with county competition and ribbons, but had everything to do with broadening experiences and developing interpersonal skills.
In 2010, Jefferson worked alongside a regional STEM extension specialist to launch the Youth Robotics Program. Each summer, with the help of amazing teen leaders, Brandon Schenk and Tate Schrock and several other teens, they held week-long robotics camps in Akron and several in Yuma through 2019.
She has also worked closely with Home Demonstration Clubs (now called Family and Consumer Education Clubs) and other aspects of the adult/community side of the job. She has seen the number of FCE clubs go down to just one really active club in the county. Of course, working with the home economics and horticulture department of the open class at the county fair was a very special aspect of the job. One of the most impactful adult programs Jefferson has been involved with in recent years is Annie’s Project, a series aimed at women involved in farming families and businesses.
“I’ve always enjoyed being able to get involved in so many aspects of 4-H and family and consumer science. I enjoyed the variety and flexibility of this job. I have enjoyed working with and helping so many children through 4-H as well as parents and 4-H leaders, and have developed friendships with so many individuals and families. It has been so nice to spend my career in one place,” she said.
“I look forward to retirement, although I will be working part-time on some of the programs I attend such as ‘A Healthier Weigh’. I also plan to spend more time with my husband, children and grandchildren. -kids. Hopefully there may be time to travel and plan to do more quilting,” Jefferson added.
In conclusion, she said, “It was so nice to be involved with so many different children and adults and to work with so many different topics and issues. I loved the variety and freedom of working with so many people on so many different projects. It was nice to see the kids and parents flourish during their time in 4-H. I will miss work, but I am ready to spend time doing more of what I love to do.
There is a retirement party planned for Jefferson from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, January 13 at the Event Center. Take the time to go wish her a happy retirement and let her know that we will miss her.