Tammy Skubinna's office in Oregon State University's Benton County Extension Office is a collection of photographs, award banners, trophies and notebooks stuffed with study materials for programs such as livestock judging, fiber arts and dog training.
After 26 years as 4-H Youth Development Faculty in Benton County and eight years before that as a program aid in Tacoma, Wash., Tammy Skubinna - Skuby Doo to her 4-H kids - is retiring at the end of January.
The Spokane native didn't even know about 4-H, she said, when she took a job after college with a degree in social work, but she had no interest in finding jobs in social work. The 4-H ethos of putting kids in charge and training them up as leaders fit right, she said.
"I couldn't have asked for better," she said. "It's like someone wrote a script for me."
Asking Skubinna to recap her years with Benton County 4-H is less a list of achievements or awards, but rather an endless stream of stories - like the girl who was inspired by a visit to the Benton County Courthouse, began working with District Court Judge Locke Williams and who now is studying in law school.
Or the shy fourth grader who would "hide behind her mother's leg," Skubinna said, found friends raising rabbits, then horses, and who now wears the crown of Miss Northwest Professional Rodeo Association.
Or the boy who knew nothing about horses and, just weeks after starting in the horse judging program, helped the Benton County team to win the state competition. A photo in Skubinna's office shows him looking shocked on the winner's podium.
And the girl whose dream of inspiring fellow Hispanic students to attend college led her to organize a fashion show auction to raise money for scholarships. The first year of the show, two scholarships were given, another two were awarded the second year, and enough money was raised in the girl's senior year to give four awards.
All of these stories were made possible through 4-H under Skubinna's quidance. She listened to ideas and connected young people with the right mentors to create success.
"I've had supportive people, a great staff and I've been in a place where I could thrive," she said. "I've just been lucky."
One of Skubinna's favorite stories illustrates how each of her "kids'" are part of her life. The story is of a young girl with a troubled childhood and parents who were moving in and out of jail.
"Sometimes people think 4-H only deals with the good kids and those who never get into trouble," Skubinna said. "Our motto is to make the best better. Wherever you are, you're doing your best and your only going to grow more."
That girl became a 4-H leader, earned a scholarship and is now working in Salem. She recently e-mailed Skubinna to say thank you and tell of her daughter, who is active in 4-H as well.
"She said, ‘You probably don't remember me,'" Skubinna said. "I said, ‘Are you kidding me?'"