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Celebrate National 4-H Week

By Laura Allen

Rowan County 4-H agent

Happy National 4-H Week! This year, that’s Oct. 7-13, a time when 4-H is promoted across the United States.

So let’s talk about 4-H.

The birth of 4-H in the United States happened when a youth program began in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio. However, 4-H was not established as a national organization until the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, which established the Cooperative Extension Service.

The 4-H program was created as a way for rural youths to learn about leadership skills and agricultural technologies that could be helpful to their families and communities. 4-H provided practical, hands-on experiences to foster the learning and development of those involved.

Today, 4-H is still the youth development sector of Cooperative Extension and is the nation’s largest youth organization, with more than 7 million members. It continues to focus on hands-on youth development opportunities, but it is no longer limited to rural youths. You will find 4-H in rural, urban and suburban communities across our great country.

Yes, agricultural learning still happens in 4-H, but it is definitely not limited to just that. Today, 4-Hers can also learn about nutrition, rocketry, robotics, environmental protection, computer science, photography, public speaking, service and more. The opportunities are endless.

By now, you are probably wondering what “4-H” stands for. The name is from the green four-leaf clover that symbolizes the organization. Each clover leaf has an “H” on it; they stand for head, heart, hands and health.

These same H words are mentioned in the 4-H pledge: “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

Members of 4-H recite the Pledge of the Allegiance and the 4-H pledge at the beginning of every meeting, which both set the stage for what 4-H embodies.

Now, let’s get specific. I know you’re wanting to know exactly what your child can get out of 4-H, so here’s the answer: speaking skills, practice with record keeping, learning how to properly use parliamentary procedure, salesmanship skills during fundraisers, competitive events, awards, good sportsmanship, learning to help others, lifelong friendships, travel, fun, networking opportunities, scholarship opportunities and more.

The skills that youths can learn through 4-H will help them throughout the rest of their lives. Plus, 4-H experiences look great on scholarship, college and job applications, an added bonus.

So how can you get involved in 4-H? If you have children ages 5-18 — as of Jan. 1 — they can join 4-H. It is free, but there is an enrollment process. We have 10 4-H clubs in Rowan County. They gather at least once a month for a business meeting, educational programming or service projects. The clubs in our county vary in focus. We have clubs that focus on one thing like horses, livestock or teen leadership, and we also have clubs that are for certain communities, schools or for home-school youth.

We also have County Council, which is for any Rowan County 4-H member age 12 to 18; this group makes decisions and plans for 4-H at the county level. There are also countywide 4-H events such as workshops, service projects, judging teams, achievement night and County Activity Day. Plus, there are statewide events like 4-H Camp and 4-H Congress.

Adults also play an important role in 4-H. We must have volunteer leaders to lead 4-H clubs and assist with 4-H activities. Our volunteers must go through an enrollment process, which includes a background check, to be able to volunteer. Volunteers provide so many opportunities to help our young people through their 4-H journey.

You can also help sponsor 4-H. Through Saturday, Tractor Supply is hosting Paper Clover Week. Go by Tractor Supply in Salisbury to donate toward funding programs for Rowan County 4-Hers.

4-H has a place for you and your family, if you’re willing to give it a try. We would love to have you.

For more information, contact Laura Allen, Rowan County 4-H agent, at 704-216-8970 or laura_allen@ncsu.edu. You may also come by Rowan County Cooperative Extension, 2727-A Old Concord Road, for more information.

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