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Extension empowers youth, new educator serving Northern Illinois

Laura Valentine

URBANA, Ill — For over 100 years, Illinois 4-H has been empowering youth for the future as the state’s largest out-of-school program. As the flagship youth program of University of Illinois, expert youth development staff are utilized to guide these positive interactions. In early June, Illinois Extension welcomed Laura Valentine as the 4-H youth development metro educator serving Grundy, Kankakee, and Will counties.

“We are very excited to welcome Laura Valentine to our staff team serving the metro areas of our communities,” says Marilu Andon, county director, “Her vast experience in the community and impressive qualifications will be invaluable as we aim to continue to empower youth for life today.”

Valentine will provide leadership and programming in the areas of 4-H youth development to communities, specifically targeting metropolitan areas. With a focus on serving youth, she says she is excited to engage every type of learner.

“I am looking forward to reaching youth and supporting them to reach their full potential through the 4-H program,” says Valentine; “These partnerships, rooted in positive interactions, are what makes 4-H so successful, and I am looking forward to being a part of the program in our community.”

Valentine, a native of the south suburbs, holds two master’s degrees from Concordia University in differentiated instruction and teacher leadership. She was a teacher in public schools for twelve years before her role with Extension.

Throughout her career in public education, she pioneered programming that promoted inclusive, safe spaces for learning, including instituting a highly successful after-school and summer program for Somalian refugees as they transitioned to American living.

Valentine will be based in the Will County Office and can be reached at

With program staff serving all 102 counties in Illinois, Extension connects people with research-based knowledge to help communities thrive.  4-H impacts youth through inclusive programming that the whole family can enjoy, rooted in positive youth development principles.  4-H youth are five times more likely to say they will graduate from college, four times more likely to say they help their communities, and two times more likely to say they are active in school. 

For more information about 4-H, visit

SOURCE: Marilu Andon, County Director; Laura Valentine, 4-H Youth Development Educator

WRITER: Anthony Warmack, Communications & Marketing Program Coordinator

ABOUT ILLINOIS 4-H:  Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.