It’s that time of the year again, when counties come together to celebrate 4-H. For some young Hoosiers, our 4-H County Fair is a culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, while for others it is simply a fun night out filled with good food, good family and good friends. Nowadays, for me, it is more of the latter, but when my daughters were younger, they were both 10-year members of 4-H. To this day, my oldest daughter is a 4-H leader and was the county fair queen five years ago.
You may be thinking that 4-H is only for those who live in rural areas, but that is actually not the case. In fact, 4-H has a rich history in every corner of the United States and with over six million students, in both urban and rural areas, the program is our nation’s largest youth development organization.
I may be a bit biased, but I strongly believe that 4-H is one of the most beneficial things we can encourage our youth to do. As you may know, participants are evaluated and have the opportunity to receive awards based on their project. However, the program teaches young students valuable skills, which are worth far more than any ribbon.
Students learn how to work independently or as part of a team. Being able to work both with their peers and adults, they learn leadership skills that will benefit them long after their days in 4-H. They also learn about healthy competition and how to think both critically and creatively. In essence, 4-H teaches the types of soft skills that some employers claim Hoosiers today are lacking.
Each year at the 4-H fairs, I am always impressed by what participants are able to achieve at such a young age. With my daughters, I have witnessed firsthand the level of dedication and perseverance that goes into this program, and I have to commend everybody involved. Knowing that many young adults learn best through a “hands-on” approach, 4-H has done a commendable job using this method to instruct participants and help them reach their full potential.
It isn’t enough just to say that 4-H provides lifelong lessons, multiple studies reveal the benefits of participating in the program. According to findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, 4-H’ers are four times more likely to make contributions to their communities, two times more likely to be civically active and two times more likely to make healthier choices. Girls who participate in 4-H are also more likely to take part in science programs compared to those involved in other extra-curricular activities.
If your child is between the ages of 8-18, I hope that you will consider allowing them to become a part of our community’s 4-H family. If you would like to learn more, please visit www.4-h.org. In the meantime, I encourage you to come out and support your local 4-H participants, and I look forward to seeing you there!