Southwestern Michigan College accounting major Aubrey Perrone tapped her hippology background to create a 144-hour internship.
Hippology — study of the horse — is the title of an equine veterinary and management knowledge contest 4-H, FFA and breed contests use. She competed nationally three times in Kentucky and Ohio.
Perrone, of Berrien Springs, spent 13 years in the Berrien County 4-H program, mostly with the 4-H Horse and Pony Project, including dressage.
Dressage is the highest expression of horse training, where horse and rider perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.
At a We Can Ride meeting Perrone approached Debra Barrett of the Berrien County Michigan Student University Extension office near Benton Harbor and an advisor to MSU’s Institute of Agricultural Technology certificate program at SMC.
While accounting and 4-H may not seem to go hand in hand, “4-H program coordinators have to do a lot of financial stuff,” she said.
Her major accomplishment was training 63 4-H volunteers in four sessions this fall on updated financial management practices and policies.
A 4-H leader herself, Perrone volunteers with We Can Ride 4-H Club, which is Berrien County’s Proud Equestrian Program (PEP).
Introduced in 1974, PEP is a therapeutic horseback program for riders with disabilities.
Riders improve balance, coordination, posture and muscle tone working with trained volunteers while increasing self-esteem, self-confidence, discipline, social skills and having fun.
Founded in 1988, St. Joseph-based Best Friends 4-H Club offers “paws-ative” canine therapy.
Perrone continues to ride her thoroughbred Leo and to show horses.
Reflecting on her 4-H days, Perrone, who has two older siblings, wishes she had taken advantage of another program which teaches tractor operation.
“I’m done with the internship” started in September “as of today,” she said Dec. 15, “but I’m continuing to help in the office until Jan. 9 to finish up some stuff. They’ve had many MSU agricultural students intern, but I was SMC’s first.”
MSU Extension will rate her performance, she will critique the office and write a three- to five-page paper.
Barrett felt the internship opened Perrone’s eyes to numerous day-to-day tasks it takes to run a local MSU Extension office or county 4-H program.
“I like bookkeeping and organizing financial records,” Perrone said. “It was my favorite high school class because of the way the teacher taught it.”
She considered becoming a large-animal veterinarian, “but I can’t do needles or blood, come to find out.”
Perrone anticipates continuing to a bachelor’s degree from either Ferris State University or MSU equine management.
“Eventually, I want to do the accounting aspect of farm management,” she said.
Of updated Michigan 4-H financial manuals, Perrone said, “Non-profits are different than regular accounting. There is a new tax rule to follow. Originally, we did not have to collect sales tax for projects kids sold. Now we do, but we are still exempt from paying sales tax on anything we buy. We have to fill out W-9s (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification when a business pays an independent contractor $600 or more during a tax year).”
“I got a lot of knowledge out of the internship,” she said.
Besides delving into non-profit financial management practices, Perrone’s internship yielded experience with the statewide breadth of MSU Extension programming, working in an office setting, completing internal audits of financial statements, using various vouchers and forms, creating and adapting spreadsheets for record-keeping, time management and teamwork.
MSU Extension benefits from working with an intern because Perrone created Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that can be updated and used after she departs.
“The technology stuff I went through for SMC was phenomenal,” Perrone said. “With agriculture, some people focus on that and don’t see the technology side of things. My Excel spreadsheet class with Kyle Kelly taught me a lot I put to use in the internship. He’s a great teacher.”