New 4-H Director
February 22, 2023
Angie Freel had 4-H kids before she had children of her own.
Freel, who recently became the new director of University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development program, started her career in 4-H in 1996, when she took a position as a secretary at the University of Arkansas state 4-H office in Little Rock.
One year later, she jumped at the chance to work as a 4-H agent in White County, Arkansas.
Freel felt as proud as any parent helping her 4-H kids meet their potential.
“I had the opportunity to watch them grow through the experience of being in 4-H, and that’s because they had mentors at the club level, they had each other and they went to state and national events,” Freel said. “I would watch this kid who was scared to get up in front of a group of people and say anything get up and give a persuasive speech that had me crying at the end. It was really evident how good 4-H is for our communities.”
Later, Freel also got to witness her biological children — Brodie, Grayson and Ellis — experience the benefits of 4-H. She believes 4-H is unique in that it teaches leadership and public speaking skills to the entire family. Parents serve as volunteers and mentors to help run 4-H and get to attend their own state and national training events.
“We get to change lives literally every day,” Freel said.
Over the course of 18 years, she worked as a 4-H agent in four Arkansas counties, before being promoted to 4-H STEM coordinator in 2014. In 2018, she was asked to fill in as the interim associate department head over 4-H. In 2020, she was named University of Arkansas’ 4-H department head.
Freel earned a family and consumer sciences bachelor’s degree in 1996 from University of Central Arkansas. She also earned a pair of graduate degrees from University of Arkansas while employed there — a master’s degree in human development and family studies in 2004 and a doctorate in human resources and workforce development in 2020.
In her new position, she’s replaced James Lindstrom, who retired.
While attending national 4-H conferences on behalf of the University of Arkansas program, Freel was impressed by the camaraderie and teamwork she witnessed among the U of I group.
UI Extension has been an innovator in pushing the limits of 4-H content, and Freel looks forward to moving the program even further ahead. For example, UI Extension 4-H Youth Development's new “Learn Everywhere with 4-H” program was approved by the Idaho State Board of Education last fall and will offer extended learning opportunities for K-12 public school students. The program will focus on middle-schoolers starting this spring and will eventually award credits that will apply toward high school graduation outside of the classroom.
“To me that proves that there’s a really good relationship between the different entities outside of the university because it’s going to take a lot of different partnerships to make that happen,” Freel said.
Creative partnerships with AmeriCorps and the Juntos program, through which 4-H staff support academic success among Latinx youth in grades 8-12, also sets 4-H apart, in Freel’s opinion. Furthermore, Freel is impressed by how Idaho's 4-H program is structured, with district leaders placed in each region of the state to be in closer proximity with county staff.
Freel is also excited about potentially sharing a couple of favorite programs with the Vandal community from her time in Arkansas. For example, “4-H Food Challenge” patterned after the Food Network show “Chopped,” challenges youth to make a nutritious meal using ingredients from a sack, and then to speak in detail about their creations.
Freel and her husband, Monty, who is a licensed home inspector, enjoy remodeling homes together. They have three children: Brodie, the youngest, is graduating from high school. Their son Grayson is a sophomore at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Their daughter, Ellis, is a junior at the University of Arkansas majoring in poultry science and accounting.
Freel appreciates the natural beauty of the Moscow campus, and she’s intrigued by the opportunities to participate in new outdoor activities.
She’s eager to try snowmobiling for the first time. She also plans to spend time hiking, biking, fly fishing and skiing. Moving to the west also brings her closer to her brother, who lives near Salt Lake City.
“I thought, ‘If I’m ever going to do something like this, now is the time because my youngest is about to graduate from high school,’” Freel said.
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu