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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Faces of Ohio 4-H — Marvin Olinsky

Marvin Olinsky

Each month, we highlight a 4-H alum who has an amazing story to share—from their personal experience in 4-H to how they have given back to the program. This month, we feature Marvin Olinsky, former CEO of Five Rivers MetroParks, founder of Adventure Central, and alumnus of New Jersey 4-H.

Growing up, Olinsky struggled with school and often felt ostracized from his community because of his religious beliefs, but he found acceptance through 4-H. “I truly credit 4-H with saving my life,” said Olinsky. “I was a troubled kid, but 4-H Olinksy (middle back) gathering for a photo with 4-H members during Leadership Washington Focus.helped me feel accepted. No one cared that I had a speech impediment or that I was Jewish, and that meant a lot to me because I regularly dealt with discrimination in my school and community for my religion.”

This sense of acceptance helped Olinsky open up and take advantage of all the opportunities 4-H had to offer. He attended 4-H camp and volunteered as a camp counselor in his later years, participated in state and national trips like Club Congress and Citizenship Short Course, and served as a Junior Leader.

He also took projects that helped him discover his passion for environmental science. “I completed entomology, woodworking, and conservation projects Olinksy smiling for a photo outside Adventure Central.and developed my public speaking skills and self-confidence through 4-H,” he said.

Olinsky went on to work as a 4-H educator in New Jersey and New York before joining Five Rivers MetroParks as CEO in 1986. Not only did Olinsky transform the Five Rivers MetroParks into the clean, safe park system it is today, but he was also the catalyst behind the creation of Adventure Central.

“My 4-H experiences were so strong that I wanted to help other young people,” said Olinsky. “I was influenced to the point that I wanted 4-H to be a Olinksy smiling for a photo with family and friends after being inducted into the Dayton Region Walk of Fame.major urban youth program. As the CEO of Five Rivers MetroParks, I saw the opportunity to build a program serving urban youth in 4-H.”

Established in 2000, Adventure Central continues to serve families in the West Dayton community by providing youth with positive youth development education through nature exploration and out-of-school programming.

“4-H taught me to never take no for an answer, and, in spite of the numerous obstacles, Adventure Central was established and has become a world-class program,” said Olinsky. “It is thrilling to see the youth participants thrive and cheer on their success as they graduate high school, go on to college, and Olinsky dressed in a clover costume at Citizenship Washington Focus.become a success as an adult.”

Olinsky also has 4-H to thank for his marriage. His wife, Chris, worked as an Extension educator and they met through their mutual connection to 4-H. Today, his daughter, Rebecca, continues the family legacy by working as the Extension educator for 4-H in Montgomery County.

In honor of his service to Ohio 4-H, Olinsky has been inducted into the National and Ohio 4-H Halls of Fame. He is also a recipient of the Legion of Honor award from the Presidents Club in Dayton and was selected as a 2023 inductee to the Dayton Region Walk of Fame.

“To this day, I live my life by the 4-H motto and the 4-H pledge. If someone says they tried their best, I always tell them there is room to make the best better. I am so thankful for my 4-H experiences and the Extension educators who helped mold my life,” said Olinsky.