4-H agent spends time at Park High

Kodie Booth
MaryAnne Keyes teaches a Safe Serve class to the Culinary Arts students on Feb. 18.

When MaryAnne Keyes was in high school, she met 4-H agents who played games to help kids learn. “It seemed unreal that someone would get paid to play games to teach kids,” said Keyes, and that was how she knew that she wanted to be an extension agent.
Aside from her duties in 4-H, you may find Keyes wandering the halls of Park High School fulfilling duties related to Work-Based Learning. Many may wonder who she is with her simple bun and professional western flare.With her framed glasses and western scarf or necklace, she confidently walks around the halls and always says hello.
The biggest influence on Keyes’ professional life is her uncle. “My uncle was a farm service agency employee. While he was dying with pancreatic cancer, he said he most regretted not being able to make a difference in people’s lives. All he had to show for his career was a drawer of organized files,” she said. She works towards being better at her job because of his influence.
In high school, Keyes attended workshops and training. She stated, “I found out that I liked the people that were there – they were people like me.” She found comfort around those people because they had the same values, morals, ethics and experiences which pushed her towards becoming an extension agent.
Now that she spends many days a week working with kids for her job, she said, “ the best part is seeing the look of pride on a kid’s face when they have accomplished a goal or finished their projects.”
Park High Senior Joleen Frost has been around Keyes for many years and has been affected by her encouragement. “MaryAnne has helped me so much in preparation for college and my self confidence. She knows when to push me to do my best because she knows I am capable when I think I am not,” said Frost.
“Nothing is ever the same – there’s always something new and different everyday and the freedom to find a better way to provide education” said Keyes about her job. For Keyes, the hardest part is attending funerals of people who departed too early. “I am glad that 4-H provides so many great opportunities to learn and ultimately change lives. It’s also hard because you become so close to families that you grieve with them when tragedies strike.”
Her outgoing and approachable personality is one of her prominent attributes. “ I have always enjoyed listening to her speak when she talks about something she is passionate about. You can physically see her eyes light up,” said Frost. “She somehow manages to make others feel passionate about that.”
As she talks to Park High teens, Keyes struggles to find the best way to start the “what do you think you would like to do” conversation. “One third of Park High grads go straight to work. Most of those, however, do not have a plan.” said Keyes. Her goal is to learn how to ask the right questions to help them form a future plan that they want to achieve.
Through 4-H and working with her at school, Frost said, “MaryAnne is always trying to make the best better.”