I pledge My Head to clearer thinking,
My Heart to greater loyalty,
My Hands to larger service, and
My Health to better living,
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the 4-H pledge, which every 4-H'er learns at their first 4-H club meeting, and which they can recite their whole life long. There are quite a few promises made in that pledge. Due to the nature of the kids participating in 4-H, it often means a lot to each individual, and will give shape to their character and future.
And now, I will tell you all about the awesomeness that is the 4-H program. I may be partial, since I participated in the 4-H program for 10 years, but it is one of the best programs for teaching youth to be responsible, hard-working, community-minded, ethical people.
Soon after, Douglas County, Minnesota saw the formation of after-school agriculture clubs and fairs. The 4-leaved clover insignia with an H on each leaf was created by Jessie Shambaugh in 1910, and by 1912, the nickname 4-H had been given to the agricultural clubs. In 1914, the USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) Cooperative Extension System, which now governs the 4-H program, was created by Congress to support these youth agriculture clubs.
|A 4-H rocketry club gets ready to set some off|
More than 6 million 4-H youth in urban neighborhoods, suburban schoolyards and rural farming communities currently participate in 4-H programs of some sort. 4-H promotes a "learn by doing" method of education, and as a result, 4-H'ers are more likely to get better grades, plan to go to college, less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and are more likely to positively contribute to their family and community. 4-H leaders are all volunteers, with more than 540,000 working to support the youth in their communities. They are supported by 3,500 Extension employees that offer many resources, and are backed up by over 60 million 4-H alumni, spread across the world! This is a HUGE program!
|I cried every year when it came time to sell my pig|
There are also additional programs and conferences available to teach leadership skills (Teen Conference), to introduce 4-H'ers to the political process (Know Your Government), to excel in public speaking (County and District Contests), and many other options to expand and explore your abilities beyond your individual projects. In all 4-H programs, participants usually keep records, manage finances, prepare a demonstration or public talk and present it to their club or in a contest, and to present their record books and project at their local fair.
I spent 10 years in the 4-H program, and loved every minute of it. I raised pigs, horses, chickens, and also completed sewing, veterinary science, and teen leadership projects. I went to 4-H camp as a kid, to Teen Conference, to leadership retreats, was a Camp Counselor, and generally had a blast. I learned how to keep records, to budget expenses, to raise animals, to run a 4-H meeting, to prepare and give public talks, and so much more. It is one of the best programs for teaching youth how to become responsible, civic-minded adults, and is one that really should receive more attention and accolades for the important work it accomplishes!
If you have young children or even teens, I encourage you to look into 4-H programs in your area, and get your kids involved! It is an experience that will shape their lives for the better!
To find out more about 4-H or to find programs in your area, check out these links: