I pledge my head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
My health to better living,
To my club, my community, my country and my world.
The 4-H pledge. It didn’t mean much to my 10-year-old self, but as I sit here reflecting on what it meant to me then and what it means to me now, I am proud that I had the opportunity to grow up and participate in so many wonderful experiences through 4-H.
4-H… you know, that “farm” club. Well, yes, but not always. 4-H is a program that is in rural areas as well as urban and suburban communities. It a club for those blessed with more as well as those less fortunate, for kids ages 8-18 who want to learn by doing. 4-H is affiliated with more than 100 public universities and has nearly six million participants and is America’s largest youth development organization. In their own words, “In 4-H, we believe in the power of young people. We see that every child has valuable strengths and real influence to improve the world around us.”
4-H, through its monthly meetings, taught me commitment and dedication. At these meetings we had elected officers who had real responsibility. We followed Roberts Rules of Order and learned how to conduct business. We also developed camaraderie and friendships. We actively practiced community service.
My first stab at public speaking was at a 4-H meeting where I nervously shared with other members a demonstration about my pony and how to identify the parts of his hoof. Did you know the middle is called a frog? I do, and so do the members of my club, because I showed them. I did this long before many of my non-4-H peers would have an opportunity to learn to speak before a group and to this day I have no fear speaking to an audience. Thank you 4-H.
As a member of 4-H, you are required to sign up for and participate in a yearly “project.” 4-H offers project learning opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) & Agriculture, Healthy Living and Citizenship. The projects teach young learners through hands on experiences that culminate with the completion of the project and showcasing of the end result. Through the projects, I learned not just valuable information about the subject I selected (horses, photography, you name it!), but I also learned about the impact of procrastination, the importance of deadlines and most importantly, I learned what it meant to see something through to completion and getting evaluated on your effort. There are hundreds of project opportunities for every curious mind.
There’s also camp. An awesome camp that provided opportunity for extended learning and lifelong friendships. We fostered independence by camping away from home and were exposed to new experiences by participating in sports or learning a new craft. If not for 4-H camp, I would have no idea how incredibly terrible I am at archery or how gifted I am at making up skits on the fly. 4-H camp allowed you to meet other kids, just like you. Camp was simply another opportunity to learn, through doing, through participating, through experiences and you didn’t even know it…because you were way too busy having fun.
This week is the Marshall County Fair. It marks the end of most 4-H projects through the exhibits and shows that will be held there. If you have an opportunity, please stop by. But this year, instead of just walking past and making a beeline to the funnel cake or racing to the carnival rides, take a moment to look at the ribbons proudly displayed by the projects, animal and non-animal alike. These mark the completion of a goal, a years worth of effort right before your eyes. Take note of those marked Grand Champion, and consider just for a moment that it was a CHILD who accomplished that honor. Consider that behind all of these wonderful contributions, laying as a foundation for all of this greatness is 4-H.
To learn more about 4-H or how to get involved, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office or explore the 4-H website.