In Glades County, it's a one woman show at the local extension office in Moore Haven; the only full-time extension agent is 41-year-old Tycee Prevatt. With the title of Youth Development 4-H agent, the majority of Prevatt's focus is on the kids in Glades County, but that's no small task.
Supported by four multi-county agents and an administrative staff member, Prevatt has lots of help with non-4-H needs that come into the office, such as issues with citrus or cattle and phone calls. The busy mom of two teenage boys is on the South Florida Beef Forage Committee as well as the Florida 4-H State Youth Dairy Advisory Committee, and is a member of the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents, the Florida Association of Extension 4-H agents, the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and the Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents.
"I was a 10 year 4-H member," said Prevatt who graduated from UF in 1994 with a degree in animal science/dairy management and will complete her master's in agriculture extension education next month from Colorado State University. Growing up, she knew she either wanted to be a 4-H agent or an agriculture teacher.
She started her extension career as 4-H agent in DeSoto County for two years, became a stay-at-home mom for 14 years, then took the job in Glades County in 2010. When she started in Glades County, Prevatt was tasked with diversifying the 4-H program, which mostly consisted of animal clubs. Prevatt, who came from a hunting and citrus-producing family in Myakka City, decided to start a shooting sports club.
"It's a good fit for Glades County," said Prevatt, who commutes from Arcadia. She felt there was a need for kids to learn safety around bows, arrows and guns, plus it gave 4-H families an option besides owning and raising an animal, which can be time-consuming.
At the first meeting of the shooting sports club in 2011, Prevatt said 12 kids showed up, mostly with their hunting bows. Now the group has grown to 25, most of those using compound or re-curb bows, and a handful shooting with rifles.
Her sons, 17-year-old Lane and 14-year-old Rais, are both members of the shooting sports club and recently participated in the Highlands County Shooting Sports 4-H Club fundraising competition. As a member of the Florida 4-H State Shooting Sports Committee and a Level 1 (soon to be Level 2) archery coach, Prevatt came to help the local Sebring club with the event, where kids from all over the state shot arrows at targets such as fake bears, buffalo and other animals.
It makes it fun for the kids to have a realistic or silly target to aim for as well as challenges them to problem-solve how they are going to hit their mark around obstacles, at strange angles or with other challenges in the way, explained Prevatt. Some of the more interesting targets she's seen include a bear sitting on a toilet (shooters have to hit the bear as well as the toilet) and a turkey hiding behind a tractor tire (shooters have to aim through the tire to hit the bird). The contestants aren't told how far away the targets are, and parents aren't allowed to coach them during the competition.
But Prevatt said the most important part of the program is the safety information. A very large focus is placed on safety, she said, so that kids know what to do if they walk into a house and there is a bow or shotgun lying around. During the Highlands County competition, she noted, all of the shooters kept their bows by their sides and did not remove an arrow from their quivers until instructed to do so.
Last year, Prevatt served as the state coordinator for the Florida team that traveled to Grand Island, Nebraska to compete in a national 4-H shooting sports competition. Thirteen kids from Florida competed, including her son Lane, who was on the compound archery team. That team, the only Florida team that placed, took third in the nation out of 25 teams.
But Prevatt said it wasn't winning that mattered so much to the kids. "It didn't matter what they were doing on the field. It was the excitement of the kids. They were team-building, they were meeting new people, they were having fun, working together," she recalled. She overheard one boy with a healthy attitude say to someone, "No ma'am, we didn't win today, but I sure had fun!"
"It was really rewarding," Prevatt added.
This time of year, with the school year wrapping up, Prevatt is making plans for summer camps. Glades County kids will be able to take part in two open enrollment camps in Lake Placid at Camp Cloverleaf, but Prevatt will also be running an in-county archery day camp, a sewing camp, a quilting camp, and a water cycle camp. If you're wondering if she can do all of these things, like sewing and quilting, herself, she vouched that she can, though she couldn't do her job without help from her excellent 4-H leaders and parent volunteers.
Which means perhaps this one woman show isn't entirely on her own after all. "We're always open to volunteers who want to share their experience and knowledge," said Prevatt. "You can have a really good program, but it doesn't matter if you don't have a volunteer to lead it."