4-H great program for youth
Fall is a busy time for many recognition weeks of various groups and organizations. There is Clergy Appreciation Month, Newspaper Week, Fire Prevention Week, Manufacturer’s Week, Education Week and the list goes on.
But there is one that is especially meaningful to me and many youth around the country. It’s National 4-H Week, which begins Sunday and runs through Oct. 12.
Empowering young people to reach their full potential. That’s exactly what the 4-H program does for millions of kids around the country. It is a positive youth development organization that has had a profound impact on my life.
As I look back on my years of growing up, there is one thing that defined my childhood and who I am today. It was my involvement in the 4-H program. As far as I’m concerned, 4-H is one of the greatest programs available for youth.
For those who may not be aware, the name 4-H represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands and health. The organization has more than 6.5 million members in the United States ranging in ages 5-19. Today, 4-H and related programs exist in over 80 countries around the world.
Like many organizations, 4-H is always looking for new members to join the program. Fall begins the new year for 4-H and what a better time than now to make a commitment to joining the organization.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking my child doesn’t need another activity to get involved in. Life is already too hectic. But let me assure you 4-H is probably one of the best investments of time you could ever make into your child’s life. And there is concrete research to back that up.
The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, a longitudinal study conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, shows youth engaged with 4-H are:
- Nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school;
- Nearly two times more likely to go to college;
- 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors;
- 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.
I was involved in 4-H for more than 10 years showing hogs, taking pictures, growing a garden, making foods, demonstrating in front of crowds and much more. I found that 4-H fostered an innovative, “learn by doing” approach.
And even if you’re an older teen, don’t sweat it, there is still time to get involved in 4-H. Just ask Mollie Allen, a senior at K-M High School. She got into 4-H late by joining a couple years ago and just a few months ago rose to one of the highest accomplishments of 4-H by becoming a state 4-H ambassador. Way to go Mollie!
It becomes more and more clear to me the older I get what 4-H has done in my life. I attribute much of my professional and community success to the leadership skills I gained through the 4-H program.
As an example, I believe 4-H gave me the confidence I needed to seek out a job at my hometown newspaper by myself as a 13-year-old and later become the assistant editor by the time I graduated from high school. Not many teenagers can make a claim like that.
There is a common myth out there that 4-H is only for farm kids. That’s the furthest from the truth. While the program centered around the farm in its earliest years, 4-H today actually focuses more on activities off the farm. Like life in general, 4-H has been forced to adapt to changing times.
The program is more about building life skills than competing at the fairs. It builds good character in kids like Mollie Allen.
I strongly encourage all youth to consider making 4-H a part of their lives. Take it from a former 4-H’er, going in hot pursuit of joining 4-H is a choice you won’t ever regret.