While changing, South Dakota 4-H still delivers

The 8,500 members of South Dakota 4-H are celebrating National 4-H Week.

South Dakota Cooperative Extension 4-H/Youth Development Specialist Kathryn Reeves said that in addition to the 8,500 members now involved in 4-H, more than 45,000 young people took part in the 4-H-sponsored CHARACTER COUNTS! program.  

"Our members will tell you that South Dakota 4-H in 2010 is not the same as the programs their grandparents or great-grandparents took part in," Reeves said. "We still have the traditions, such as 'Cows and Cooking,' but those are now known as animal sciences and foods and nutrition. And while they are still popular, today's South Dakota 4-H'ers are spending as much or more time exploring and learning about other aspects of 4-H."

Reeves said that there are more than 3,800 4-H'ers involved in citizenship and civic education programs, approximately 6,800 visual arts and photography 4-H'ers, and another 5,600 youth who are learning about environmental education and earth sciences.

"Another 1,000 youth focus specifically on leadership skills, and yet another 7,500 on applied sciences and technology," said Reeves. "South Dakota's 4-H members are taking responsibility for their futures as they move from local club participation and project work to the larger stage of becoming leaders in their schools, communities, and the state."

The State 4-H Youth Council has announced its intention to turn its annual Teen Leadership Conference, or TLC, into a summit where all South Dakota youth can meet and discuss issues that affect teens. It will be a place where they can implement practical and long-term solutions. Reeves said their experiment at last year's TLC convinced them to broaden their audience and seek representation from every South Dakota county.

"Last year's internal practice event garnered four important topics, including the need for more practice and instruction in making decisions using logic and reason to consider short, middle, and long term consequences, the need for youth to be allowed to take on appropriate responsibilities and leadership roles in the groups they participate in," Reeves said. "They also looked at creating a program to address concerns related to teens and distracted driving, to include writing draft legislation on this subject. Clubs around the state also are considering how 4-H members can promote their own programs."

Reeves said the results provided the framework for the group's activities thus far, including a meeting with South Dakota 4-H leaders to discuss concerns and solutions, planning a winter retreat for teens, writing legislation, a presence on Facebook, and providing leadership training for 11-13 year-olds across the state.

In addition, South Dakota 4-H members have selected Children's Charities as the South Dakota 4-H Community Service project for the year. Over the coming months, clubs all over the state will be focusing their efforts on helping child-focused charities across the state, nation and world. Clubs are encouraged to report the results of their efforts, and they will compile the overall effort into a final annual report.

"Whether it be applying the Six Pillars of Character, practicing the art of public speaking, making decisions individually or as a group, or exploring new technology, South Dakota youth continue to gain life long skills from their participation in 4-H programs," said Reeves. "As we begin National 4-H Week, we extend the invitation to all young people in South Dakota. Come see what we have to offer. The development of head, heart, hands and health continues to be a fun way for young people to take responsibility for their future – and the future of our state."

For more information about National 4-H Week, or for information on a 4-H chapter in your county, visit your Extension office, or call Reeves at 605-394-2236.

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