Even into adulthood, many of us are still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up, but not Ann Domsch. From the age of 12, she knew she wanted to work with children. Her own experiences with the 4-H youth development program as a child growing up in northwest Kansas led her to a career with Kansas State University as a family and consumer science and 4-H agent in K-State Research and Extension.
For the positive difference she’s made with the countless children and families she’s worked with for more than 55 years, Domsch of Manhattan, Kansas, was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame Oct. 7 in Washington, D.C.
“I grew up a 4-Her and I loved everything about 4-H – the other kids and most of all, my extension home economist,” Domsch said of her childhood spent on a farm north of Goodland, Kansas. Evelyn Erichson, who served as her county’s extension home economist, greatly influenced Domsch and taught her many skills, including leadership.
“Always in the lead and waiting for the rest of us to catch up – that describes Ann Domsch,” her Kansas 4-Hcolleagues wrote in their letter of nomination for the award. “Whether it is a new 4-H initiative, 4-H agents with a programming need, or young people with an idea, Ann is the first to say ‘let’s go.’”
Domsch earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics and extension at K-State. From 1959 until 1995, served as the family and consumer science and 4-H agent in Rawlins County in northwest Kansas where she became well known as an early adopter of new ideas. Those ideas included clubs centered on particular projects, day camps, residential 4-H clubs for disabled children and overnight and outdoor education camps in addition to traditional 4-H clubs.
Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in adult education from K-State. In 1995, she moved to the opposite part of Kansas, to take on the role of extension 4-H youth development specialist for southeast Kansas. There, she introduced county agents to True Colors training and helped develop the Leadership Excellence and Dynamic Solutions or LEADS curriculum, designed to teach young people and adults positive ways to be involved in their communities. She led delegations of 4-H youth to the National 4-H Congress in Washington, D.C. and built long-lasting collaborations with other organizations that serve the state’s children.
Domsch’s time and efforts working with youth did not end when she left the office every night. She raised three sons – Kent, Kirk and Kyle and now has three daughters-in-law, four granddaughters and a great grandson.
She retired from K-State Research and Extension in 2001, but wasn’t done yet. From 2001 until 2004 she coordinated the state 4-H Horse Program which had 1,000 4-H members plus coordinated the 2,500 district 4-H and 1,300 Kansas State Fair Horse Show entries.
Domsch served as the Kansas volunteer coordinator of the National Conversation for Youth Development as part of the 100 years of 4-H celebration in 2014.
From 2005 until this year, she coordinated Kansas: Operation Military Kids, part of a national effort to support children and families of active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve members. Operation Military Kids works with Kansas 4-H Youth Development, K-State Research and Extension, Boys & Girls Clubs, the American Legion and other organizations.
Since 2001, Domsch has been “Mom Ann” to young men in the Acacia Fraternity at K-State, where she also has the title of “leadership director.” In that role, she said, she talks with them about everything from classes to their personal lives.
“Ann continues as a tireless Kansas extension volunteer, 4-H alumna, International 4-H Youth Exchange alumna, and a die-hard K-State sports fan,” said longtime colleague and 4-H extension youth specialist, Pam Van Horn. “Her joy, energy and commitment to 4-H are infectious. She weaves fun and encouragement into whatever she takes on.”