Each month, Ohio 4-H highlights an outstanding alumnus who shares how 4-H has shaped their life and how they continue to give back. This month, we are featuring Darke County 4-H alumna, Molly Hunt, a geologist and paleontologist who works at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological Survey.
Molly Hunt traces her interest in geology back to her five-year-old self spending days searching for rocks to add to her collection. Over the next five years this interest grew, and during her second year of 4-H, she took her rock collection to county judging for the Collectibles project, as Ohio 4-H did not have a geology project at the time. “The judge was impressed with my passion for geology at such a young age and encouraged me to write a geology project book one day.”
During her last year in 4-H, Hunt did just that. While working as an educational assistant at the Ohio State Fair, she met Extension Specialist Dr. Robert Horton and asked why Ohio did not offer any geology projects. “He told me it was because no one had ever written one, and when I asked if there was a way to create these books, he suggested I write them!”
With the help of Dr. Horton and Jane Wright, 4-H curriculum manager and director of Extension Publishing, Hunt wrote Geology: Can You Dig It?, a project book that helps 4-H youth explore geosciences. A few years later, Hunt went on to co-write a second project book, Exploring Polar Science, with Jason Cervenec of OSU’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. This book invites youth to take a closer look at the geography and ecosystems that make up the Arctic and Antarctica.
For Hunt, the connections she made through 4-H were invaluable in getting her where she is today. “While serving as a collegiate facilitator at the National 4-H Youth Summit on Healthy Living in Washington, D.C., I interviewed for an internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. After being selected, 4-H allowed me to stay at the National 4-H Conference Center at no cost during my internship. This was an unpaid internship, and without the generosity of 4-H my participation would not have been possible.”
One of her biggest 4-H highlights was being an Ohio 4-H Health Hero. “The Health Heroes program helped build my confidence and got me through some tough times in my life,” said Hunt. As a Health Hero, Hunt worked with Dr. Theresa Ferrari, Youth Development Extension specialist, and Rhonda Williams, Darke County 4-H Extension educator, to create “Clover Confidence BFFs: Building Fearless Females.” The program developed curriculum and events focusing on social and emotional well-being for middle school girls. Hunt was selected as a finalist for the National 4-H Youth in Action award for her work developing this program.
Hunt earned academic degrees from Edison State Community College and The Ohio State University. She currently works as both a geoscientist and an educator, with the flexibility to continue her involvement in Ohio 4-H. “I like to say I’ve never really left 4-H! This summer, I was invited to educate hundreds of 4-H’ers about Ohio’s geology at programs across the state.”
As a proud 4-H volunteer, Hunt sponsors Ohio State Fair clock trophies, awards distributed to the most outstanding individual in each project class. She is often invited to share her 4-H story at events across Ohio and the United States. Most recently, Hunt served as the keynote speaker at the Ohio 4-H Teen Leadership Council’s annual banquet, and she also shared her story at the Ohio 4-H Foundation’s Celebration of Youth.
Her continued support and advocacy for Ohio 4-H stems from her love of the program that helped shape her into who she is today. “4-H became a village for me and the support I received as a youth and continue to receive now is overwhelming.”
She is also grateful for the friendships she made over the years. “It’s been amazing to watch my biggest competitors at the state level become some of my biggest cheerleaders and closest friends in recent years!”
4-H is the reason I am living and thriving. It fueled my curiosity from a young age and taught me lifelong skills. While I didn’t decide to become a geologist because of 4-H, it gave me the tools to turn a passion into a career.”