4-H is an Important Community Development Component
Posted: October 9, 2012
Through 4-H clubs, thousands of youth have learned about their communities, provided service to their communities, and learned the skills to take leadership roles in their communities as adults.
Some 4-H clubs tour the local firehouse, talk with EMS personnel, attend a municipal meeting, talk with a municipal official about his/her job, and learn how their community works.
Many clubs provide community service. It's often related to their project. Dog and cat project members collect food for animal shelters. Horse project members collect blankets for an equine hospital. Some clubs collect donations for local food pantries or make up baskets of food to deliver to needy families in the community. Clubs clean trails, paint fences, and plant flowers in public spaces.
Ideally a 4-H club is member-directed. That is, the officers lead the group in making decisions. Of course, part of the learning process may include coaching from adult volunteer leaders. Members learn how to make decisions in committees and how to use parliamentary procedure, albeit a simplified form sometimes.
Members learn how to get up in front of a group to provide leadership. My own memories of 4-H as a youth include the annual phone call from the Extension agent who asked me to lead singing at a gathering of 125 girls. i did not like that task at all, but each year I gained more confidence in leading singing. Of course, later I was elected to various club and county-wide officer posts and my confidence in leading groups continued to expand.
Many 4-H members are required to give a show and tell or presentation each year at a club meeting. They discover that talking about something that is personally important is not that difficult. They learn how to organize their ideas, support their arguments and use posters, slides and demonstration to emphasize specific knowledge and skills. Being able to get up in front of others to talk is important to community organization. Later these same 4-H alumni will be able to rally their community around an issue, if necessary.
Many 4-H alumni have become leaders in agriculture, business and industry, education, the judicial system, entertainment and other areas. This positive youth development even impacts kids who only participate in a club for a year or two.
I think of two children who were members of a 4-H club for which I provided adult leadership many years ago. Both came from poor, transient families. One was being raised by grandparents. The other's father committed suicide in the house in which they lived in exchange for the father's work. One of them told me years later that her memories of 4-H were of a warm and caring place. She can't remember what project she worked on or anything we did in the club. It was just a warm memory that has sustained her. If that helps her to be a good citizen in her community, then 4-H has done its job.