With summer around the corner, parents are looking for a creative avenue for their kids while they are out of school. While working on the farm is a great option, not everyone has that opportunity. 4-H is a chance to meet new friends, to get hands-on experiences, and to learn new skills. Check out these four things you should know before you join 4-H.
According to the 4-H website, “4‑H reaches almost six million young people through our community of 100 public universities. Programs are delivered by 3,500 4‑H professionals and 500,000 volunteers.” In a poll, 77 percent of our Instagram community was involved in 4-H at some point in their life. So what is 4-H and what should you know before getting started? We talked to Savanna Stanley, California 4-H alumna, and Jesse Carroll, a Missouri 4-H alumnus, to get the scoop.
What are four things you should know before you start 4-H?
- Have patience. It truly takes at least a year or so to fully understand how everything works. From the multiple programs to finding your niche, it takes time. There are so many programs offered that you can’t hardly try everything at once. After you have a better understanding of how it works, you will be able to get involved even more and get the full experience.
- This isn’t your momma’s 4-H club. Just like everything else in society, it has evolved with time. Students get hands-on learning with multiple programs including science, health, agriculture, and civic engagement. It teaches youth responsibility by caring for livestock, leadership skills, and overall life skills. Students can participate in different groups like sewing, STEM projects, guinea pigs, knitting, etc.
- There are a lot of opportunities! Jesse says with all the opportunities also comes a lot to learn. “But it is worth it. Ask your Club leader and Youth Specialist about State and National workshops and trips. If you or any of your kids are in High school, these trips are life changing!” Go that extra mile and gain even more life experiences.
- The lessons will last a lifetime. 4-H is from 8 years old until 18 years old. Savanna said, “I spent 8 years in 4-H raising swine, pygmy goats, and poultry. I sold my swine and poultry every year at the fair learning about business, following up with repeat customers, professionalism, ROI, etc. I was able to save up for college with my 4-H experience. It was an incredible part of my childhood.”
4-H is more than just a summer activity. Savanna said 4-H saved her from herself. “I would not be the same person I am today if 4-H wasn’t in my life. During the summer I felt I had a purpose by taking care of my animals where I would spend hours on end every day walking my pig, cleaning the stalls, driving to buy alfalfa/pig feed, etc. All those hours were introverted hours that taught me a lot about myself and I know deep in my soul that I would have spent those hours in bad situations making bad decisions if I didn’t have 4-H. I was going down a wrong path before I got really involved in 4-H in high school becoming chapter president of my local club and then becoming the county wide 4-H All-Star. I wouldn’t change my experience for a second. I gained so many wonderful friends and mentors that I still am very close with today, 6 years later.”
In addition to helping students stay on an honest path, 4-H gives students lessons that will serve them the rest of their life. Jesse said, “I’ve honestly learned so much through 4-H. I’ve certainly developed public speaking skills that have helped me in every aspect of my life. I learned that hard work and dedication really do make a difference. These character traits show through everything that you do, and I am thankful that 4-H taught me how achieve success this way.”
Jesse continued, “I also learned that everyone has a different leadership style, and it is important to acknowledge that. Insights from other people can sometimes be the key you need for solving a problem. Also, the opportunities that I’ve been offered were almost always directly related to an aspect of 4-H.”
Still not sure if this something you want to become invested in? Check out their website! There is a lot of free material for students, parents, and teachers. However, the social skills and leadership opportunities are best in person!
Jesse wraps it up perfectly, “I have never had anyone tell me they regretted joining a 4-H club. However, I have heard multiple people tell me they regret NOT joining 4-H, or not fully participating in the programs offered. It really is an amazing opportunity, don’t miss out!”