Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Educator Mary Duncomb to Retire from University of Minnesota Extension

During the past 34 years, there has been a consistent face in the Dakota County 4-H youth development program, who provided leadership and ideas to keep the program fresh and relevant to the changing times.  That face belongs to Mary Duncomb, who will retire in early January from University of Minnesota Extension after a 40 year career.


Mary began her extension career in Swift County then moved to Scott County.  In the fall of 1978, Mary moved back to Dakota County, her home county, and has been working with others to grow the 4-H program ever since.  In 2004, University of Minnesota Extension moved to a regional model, with Mary now managing the 4-H programs in Dakota, Goodhue and Washington Counties.  Through a variety of changes over the years, Mary remained focused on ensuring quality youth development programs that reached all audiences.  As a result, Dakota County boasts the largest 4-H youth development program in the state of Minnesota.


Mary introduced the Youth Teaching Youth Program  in Dakota County in 1986.  The Youth Teaching Youth Program trains high school youth to teach elementary aged youth on alcohol, seat belt safety and tobacco decisions, character education, and most recently bullying.  The program uses an effective delivery that allows older teens to serve as role models to younger youth, as well as build their own public presentation skills.  Teen teachers have also been able to explore their career choice of teaching.  This program has won national, state and local area honors.  It is a National 4-H Program of Distinction as well as earning the Met Life Foundation Award of Excellence.


Mary has also been able to secure funding to allow 4-H programs to grow and meet current needs.  She has sought and received funding to learn and implement a GIS/GPS programs with Dakota County 4-H members and adult volunteers.  Mary also received funding to design and conduct reuse and recycling programs.  She has contributed to curriculum development on the local and state level.  Mary served on the Operation Military Kids design team, which wrote lesson plans that have been distributed throughout the world to military installations. 


Mary builds her work through the relationships with others; whether program coordinators, community partners, stakeholders, youth or adult volunteers.  She is always looking for the best way to get the right people around the table to ensure that all voices and perspectives are heard and they have the most buy-in to allow for success.  She has a keen sense on how to bring others together to move the program forward.


She has been recognized both by the University of Minnesota as an outstanding Extension Educator but also has been awarded National Association of Extension 4-H Agents awards.
Throughout her career, Mary Duncomb saw the possiblities for youth and acted to make them happen.

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