Janesha Robert '21

‘Never in a Million Years’

Deborah Dudley

“Never in a million years did I think that I would be helping kids take out their animals to get them ready for a county fair,” says Jenesha Robert ’21, who was a 2018 St. Lawrence University Public Interest Corps (SLU PIC) intern at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Canton. “It’s something that was completely out of my job description on paper.”

As Robert tells it, “There was one time that they were really low on staff and they needed someone to help get the kids ready to show their animals at the St. Lawrence County Fair in Gouverneur. It was just me, with about 10 or so 7- to 8-year-olds. 

“I was helping them take out their goats, and take out their cows, and then their chickens. At first, I was so nervous about it because I’m from Schenectady, and we don’t really do that. I was nervous being responsible for the animals and for the kids as well, but one of the little girls just said, ‘Come on. You have to face your fears,’ and I was just like, ‘You know what? She’s right.’”

“After that, I just got over it,” says Robert, and “it was so much fun.” 

On occasion, Robert would be enlisted to help out with the day campers, animals and farm activities, but for the most part, Robert’s main internship responsibilities included assisting young volunteers who were scheduled to work the local county fair in St. Lawrence County, through training sessions and Robert’s own devised professional development. 

“I had to completely make up my own version of an employment training guide from scratch,” says Robert. “I created a 3-inch binder full of training sessions, activities, some group-dialogue exercises, and icebreakers, to help them develop professional skills for working the fair.”

The teenage volunteers were selected from the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H youth development programming and came from all over the county, which gave Robert a chance to work with youth from around the state.

“When I was in high school, I was able to get a lot of mentoring from people that have a lot of experience in college and career readiness,” she says. “I like the fact that I was able to pay it forward and give back in that capacity.”

Robert’s interest in working with kids and giving back to the community informed her application for the summer position with SLU PIC, which is a joint venture between St. Lawrence’s Career Connections and Volunteer Services offices, placing student interns with local community organizations.
“I was really surprised to learn that there are Cooperative Extensions in every county of New York. I was totally unaware of that,” says Robert. “Not only that, but I was surprised to learn about how much they do for a variety of people. I didn’t realize that they have different departments that focus on different age groups, from very young kids to senior citizens. I don’t think that I would even know the impact that they have if I wasn’t able to do this internship.”