Youth earns her feathers with Pheasants Forever council

Marie Keefe has mixed feelings about moving on from her five years on the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever National Youth Leadership Council.

Keefe, of Fostoria, is ending her year as chairwoman of the council, and her year as Hancock County Fair queen ends Aug. 28 around the same time she starts her new life as a college student.

This morning at the council’s annual summer meeting, she is giving her parting address to the rest of the 20-member youth council.

“I tried to sit down and write it and I don’t know what to say,” Keefe said last week. “I have so much to say, I guess. And I’m going to cry.”

She has been remembering highlights of the last five years.

“To express that is not coming well,” she said.

“I got to know lots of people on the national level,” she said.

She received a graduation card from Howard Vincent, national president of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, and she met the U.S. secretary of agriculture “a couple times.”

But it’s the time with the other youth council members she said she’ll remember most, including her friend Jenna Nelson of Minnesota.

“We really hit it off,” she said. “We text all the time.”

Keefe said she plans to visit her old friends by attending the national Pheasant Fest whenever possible and keeping in contact through Facebook, phone calls and email.

“You become like a family when you spend four days, 24 hours together,” she said. “I feel like my big sister title has carried on into the youth leadership council title.

“And I’m a very experienced big sister,” she said, referring to her four younger siblings.

It was through her mother, Ann, she became involved in PF’s National Youth Leadership

Council when she was in eighth grade.

Ann, who then was wildlife specialist with Seneca Soil & Water Conservation District and a volunteer with Seneca County Pheasants Forever, saw a notice about the council and encouraged her daughter to apply.

“I went through the application process and a phone interview and got chosen,” she said.

After her first year, Keefe was elected the public relations specialist for the council and kept that position for three years until she was elected chairwoman last summer.

During her years in PR, she was involved in putting together PF’s youth magazine now called “Forever Outdoors.”

Keefe said she can’t possibly remember everything she has learned in her five years on the national council.

“My public speaking skills have improved a ton because of all the skills training I have received,” she said. “They want us to be able to represent the council well.”

Other training has included conflict resolution, “and I’ve learned a lot about responsibility,” she said.

“Because of the leadership council more doors opened for me,” she said. “I would not be Hancock County Fair queen if I didn’t have that experience.”

Regarding her queen duties, Keefe said she is enjoying attending area fairs to represent her county.

“I love it. It’s so much fun,” she said. “I spent my high-school years growing up in this (Hancock) county.”

Although she represents Seneca County on the youth council, her family lives outside of Fostoria – and just outside Seneca County – in the Arcadia school district.

“Hancock County Fair is pretty much awesome,” she said.

As queen, she competed with 67 other county

fair queens in state competition.

“I placed 16th,” she said. “It’s pretty hard.”

Some of the experience she’ll carry are the time management skills she learned.

“With sports, school and activities I had to,” she said. “I have to make sure I have a schedule for everything.”

She still finds time to spend with longtime boyfriend Jared Corbin and to work at Bob Evans in Fostoria.

At the national level, Keefe has attended Pheasant Fests – the annual PF get-together – at Madison, Wisc., her first year and in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.

For youth council summer meetings like the one in Seneca County this weekend, she and her family have traveled to Nebraska, Illinois and Tennessee.

“At the Pheasant Fest you’re there to work,” she said. “Pheasant Fest is big. It’s the main show for Pheasants Forever.”

The show features dog breeders, hunting supplies, outdoor gear, educational seminars, food vendors and “anything and everything that has to do with hunting and the outdoors.

“The National Youth Village is run by the youth council,” she said.

Council members run children’s activities such as a mock hunt, hunter safety classes, archery, Laser Shot, fishing with magnets and crafts.

“We’ve made fishing lures before,” she said. “We played a plant identification game and we made (wooden) tree cookies.”

But summer is time for socializing and training.

“During the summer meeting, we act more like a team and get to know each other a little better,” she said.

She said she’s formed friendships with young people ages 13-18.

“It’s not really based off of age,” she said. “It’s more maturity-based. Our youngest person was 12.”

The 20-member council has a representative from each area of the country. Because Keefe is leaving, the new representative from the area is Jarrett Barr of Lima.

Keefe said Barr is to represent Hancock County because he’s active in a shooting sports program there.

At the local level, one of her favorite memories was raising funds for a Laser Shot shooting simulator during the Seneca County Pheasants Forever banquet a few years ago.

“That was all purchased in one night,” she said. “Toward the end of the night, we raised $5,000 in a matter of a half hour.”

During the last few years, the Laser Shot has been used during the banquet, at the county fair

and during hunter education classes.

She also remembers how nervous she was as she gave her first speech as youth council representative at the local Pheasants Forever banquet.

But she made friends with public speaking.

Keefe graduated June 2 from Arcadia High School where she was one of six class valedictorians, and she was chosen a speaker at the graduation ceremony. She was involved in softball, marching band and yearbook.

“I was FFA president, so I gave speeches for that,” she said.

During this summer of transition as high school is over, Keefe has made her plans. She’s ready to move on to college at Ohio Northern University to study pharmaceutical business and marketing.

“It’s a degree in marketing with the pharmacy twist to it,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when the end of August hits. I’ll just be a college student.”