UACES Facebook Arkansas 4-H Center’s ExCEL leadership program welcomes new coordinator
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Arkansas 4-H Center’s ExCEL leadership program welcomes new coordinator

“What I enjoy the most is when an activity really clicks with a group and they have a sort of ‘ah-ha’ moment or takeaway from that particular activity." — Taylor Knox

May 20, 2022

By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • ExCEL program offers team building and leadership training for youth, college, non-profit and corporate groups
  • Taylor Knox began as ExCEL coordinator on May 1
  • Arkansas Outdoor School program offers extensive outdoor education for eighth grade and younger groups

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(Newsrooms: With art of Knox at

FERNDALE, Ark. — At the C. A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center, opportunities for hands-on and “minds-on” learning abound. For youth, college, non-profit and corporate groups, the 4-H Center’s ExCEL Leadership Program has offered such an opportunity since 1986.

The team building and leadership development program welcomed Taylor Knox as its new coordinator on May 1.

Portrait of Taylor Knox

NEW COORDINATOR -- As the new ExCEL coordinator at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center, Taylor Knox is looking forward to putting his own fingerprint on the progam. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo)

Knox began volunteering at the 4-H Center in 2015 and was hired to work as a facilitator with the ExCEL program shortly after. Knox graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in Science Education and earned his Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, with a concentration in Higher Education.

“The entire 4-H Center program team is thrilled that Taylor has taken on the ExCEL coordinator position,” said Shannon Caldwell, 4-H Center program director. “Taylor has worked with the ExCEL program since 2015 and has the knowledge, skill, creativity and positive uplifting spirit to continue the ExCEL leadership legacy of previous program coordinators Mike Klumpp, J. J. Pitman and Luke Nipper.”

ExCEL stands for “Experience the Challenge, Experience the Leadership.” Knox said this slogan is not used anymore, but it is part of the program’s 36-year history. Based in experiential education, ExCEL requires groups to work together to solve problems and overcome challenges.

Knox said groups typically start with “low ropes” activities, which include structures, puzzles or games that take place on the ground. After a lunch break, groups transition to the “high ropes” course – a series of more than 20 obstacles and elements that participants must navigate while harnessed 20-25 feet in the air.

“A lot of trust is involved with us as facilitators, so we spend a good amount of the time trying to build up some rapport with our clients, and also with each other,” Knox said. “The high ropes course is about getting us to a spot where we’re not totally comfortable, so we have to rely on others, and we’re pushing ourselves.”

ExCEL participants must be 13 or older. Younger groups can participate in the 4-H Center’s Arkansas Outdoor School, which offers extensive outdoor educational opportunities. Both ExCEL and Arkansas Outdoor School also offer off-site programming.

Throughout his seven years as a facilitator of the ExCEL program, Knox said his favorite part of the job has been watching a group deeply connect with a particular activity or challenge.

“What I enjoy the most is when an activity really clicks with a group and they have a sort of ‘ah-ha’ moment or takeaway from that particular activity,” Knox said. “It changes with every single group. They see something in it that parallels really well with their personal lives or their work life.”

Knox gave an example from a recent experience with a group of employees who work in pediatrics. While doing an activity called “Most Important Thing” that requires participants to toss and catch a series of objects, all while ensuring the “most important object” does not drop as new items are introduced, the group related it to the importance at the heart of their work with children.

“They talked about the activity, and they said ‘our mission of helping kids is the most important thing. Everything else is important, but we don’t need to lose our vision of what our mission is,’” Knox said. “I thought that was a really good takeaway: when new things pop up, do we lose our attention from our mission, or try to keep going?”

When working with youth groups, Knox said he often hears that kids who “maybe don’t excel in a traditional school format can really excel with this program.”

“It’s totally understandable. A lot of the time, opportunities like this aren’t widely available for kids, so it’s just a totally different format than what they’re used to,” Knox said. “You’ll see kids who maybe aren’t the most studious really rise up and be leaders, or creative thinkers.”

Knox said he looks forward to continuing the legacy of previous ExCEL program coordinators and that he wants to “put my own fingerprint on the program.” He said his main goal will be to expand the reach of the program to benefit more participants.

“More than anything, I just want to make sure that we’re reaching more people we don’t typically connect with to give more opportunities to people who don’t have them,” Knox said.

For more information about the ExCEL Leadership Program, visit the ExCEL page on the Arkansas 4-H website. For more information about Arkansas Outdoor School, visit its page on the Arkansas 4-H website or check out the list of classes offered.

Arkansas 4-H is operated by the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media contact:  
@RKHall­_ • 501-671-2061