National 4-H Week illustrates benefits of program for youth by M. Jill Karolevitz Across the country, 4-H�ers are celebrating National 4-H Week Sunday, Oct. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 7.
National 4-H Week, celebrated annually, provides recognition to the 6.6 million youth, age 8 to 19, involved in 4-H programs and the 6.3 million 4-H volunteers throughout the country.
In South Dakota, 4-H member enrollment is over 50,000 youth. Locally, Clay County is home to a dozen 4-H clubs with 170 members and 34 adult volunteer leaders, according to Virginia Delvaux, Extension educator.
�We also have a new program � Cloverbuds � for youngsters under the age of 8,� she said. �It gives them an introduction to the 4-H program to see what it�s all about.�
4-H is the Cooperative Extension System�s dynamic, non-formal educational program for young people. Its mission is to develop youth to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society. The program combines the cooperative efforts of youth, volunteer leaders, state land-grant universities, federal, state, local governments and the United States Department of Agriculture.
4-H participants are enrolled in a variety of project areas all year.
�The variety is open-ended,� Delvaux said. �If a 4-H member doesn�t find something of interest in a set project, the Self Determined program gives them the opportunity to explore areas that they choose.�
In addition to exhibits shown at county fairs � from livestock and crops, to sewing, gardening and crafts � 4-H has a variety of educational projects available. Today�s 4-H�ers can be found building model rockets, organizing canned food drives for the needy, delivering speeches, participating in the 4-H Performing Arts Troupe, judging, participating in quiz bowls, cooking foods from menus they�ve designed themselves, making and modeling clothing, evaluating meat animal carcasses, riding horses, showing dogs, keeping records of their project development, and much more.
The 4-H Pledge � �I pledge ? my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world� � defines the commitment of 4-H�ers throughout the country. 4-H not only asks youngsters to �make the best better,� it gives them guidance to reach their goals. Through 4-H, they learn life skills to help them succeed, including understanding themselves as a resource, communicating, commitment to and relating to others, problem solving and decision making, acquiring, analyzing and using information, managing themselves and other resources and working with others.
�4-H offers youth the opportunity to be as active and involved as they have time for. And by participating in activities and projects, members gain basic life skills,� Delvaux said. �In working with the adult volunteers, as well as working independently, 4-H members learn things that they can use for the rest of their lives.
�It�s also a family organization,� she continued. �For many parents and kids, 4-H gives them quality time spent together.�
Members are also rewarded for work well done. Ribbons and trophies are awarded for the various projects, both those that go on throughout the year and at the county fair.
�The county fair is like a district tournament in sports,� Delvaux said. �4-H�ers bring the projects they�ve worked on during the year and are recognized for their work through placings according to what they�ve learned and how they did. If they do well enough, they earn the right to go on to the state fair. But even if they don�t go to state, they learn by doing, regardless of their ribbon placing.�
As an extension of National 4-H Week, a 4-H Discovery Night will be held Oct. 17 at the Clay County 4-H Center from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
�Any youth over 7 and up to age 19 are invited to come and learn about 4-H that night,� Delvaux said. �Educational tables will be set up and a short presentation about 4-H projects will be given. There will also be a question and answer session for prospective members and their parents. If they want to enroll that night, they can.
�We also welcome parents to organize new clubs or to become leaders,� she added. �Clubs can be traditional or for a special interest. In addition to traditional clubs, Clay County has a shooting sports club, along with horse, dog and rabbit clubs, and this year, a cat club has been initiated.�
For more information about the 4-H program, contact the Clay County Extension Office at 677-7111.