The U.S. Peace Corps assigned Ms. Johnson to teach high school agriculture in Malaysia after seeing 4-H on her resume.
When she pointed out that she had grown up in town and her projects had been cooking, sewing, photography, and entomology, her supervisors didn't change their minds, saying if she had been in 4-H she should know how to at least organize agriculture classes.
Mrs. Stewart heard she was hired over another candidate for her first social work position with Big Brothers/Big Sisters because she had been in 4-H. To her interviewer, 4-H membership meant Mrs. Stewart should have a strong work ethic and leadership skills.
They are among 16 alumni of 4-H from across Michigan to be inducted into the 4-H Emerald Clover Society for exemplifying the youth organization's motto of using their head, heart, hands, and health to better their communities, country, and world.
The $100-a-plate ceremony and dinner are in Michigan State University's Kellogg Center in East Lansing.
Ms. Johnson, a former Lenawee County 4-H extension agent, was nominated by Mrs. Stewart, who now holds that position.
"Thalia has dedicated her life to 4-H," Mrs. Stewart said of the 24 years Ms. Johnson spent as a 4-H agent and program assistant after returning to the United States from three years in the Peace Corps. Mrs. Stewart, then Janelle Roback, was a
Lenawee County 4-H member when Ms. Johnson was the county agent.
Ms. Johnson helped draw more Hispanic youth into 4-H at a time when few joined. Today, 50 to 75 of Lenawee County's 1,200 to 1,300 4-H Club members are Hispanic, Mrs. Stewart said.
After taking an early retirement buyout when Extension was cutting budgets in 1996, Ms. Johnson, who is 57, co-founded Cambios, Inc. The company provides children's books addressing racism to schools and public libraries and trains volunteers to read the books.
The Lenawee County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognized her work with Cambios, which is a Spanish word for changes, with a community award in 2000.
Mrs. Stewart, 39, was nominated by her fellow Lenawee County 4-H agent, Michelle Adkins, who said she admired her work with four youth leadership boards and a horticulture program for disabled people.
"She's really what 4-H is a picture of," Ms. Adkins said.
Tonight's ceremony is the second induction into the Emerald Clover Society, which was started in 2002 to honor the national 4-H centennial with an inaugural class of 62 members.
Southeast Michigan 4-H alumni inducted two years ago include:
●Bill Dodds, a Monroe County 4-H alumnus who became vice president and general manager of The Andersons, Inc., grain division.
●Norman Brown, a Monroe County 4-H alumnus who became a consultant and president emeritus of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
●Gary Seevers, a Hillsdale County 4-H alumnus who became an agricultural economist with Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York and was once acting chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
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