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Get to Know 4-H

October 6, 2010
By Richard Gast, Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension

I recently participated in two Conservation Field Day events sponsored by the Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program. It was a remarkable opportunity for me, and for the more than 600 fourth and fifth graders from several school districts in Franklin and Essex counties who came to learn about natural resources conservation and the environment. Representatives from agricultural and natural resources agencies including Cornell Cooperative Extension, state Department of Environmental Conservation, Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Adirondack Park Agency Visitors Interpretive Center at Paul Smiths, Paul Smiths College, the Nature Conservancy and others offered short presentations, many of which included fun, hands-on interactive activities and demonstrations geared toward conservation education.

The 4-H staff at Cornell Cooperative Extension are extremely grateful for the participation of so many dedicated partnering agencies and organizations, without who, the events would not have been possible. All of us at Extension thank each and every one of the presenters for all their help, and wish to express our gratitude, as well, to the teachers, students and chaperones who attended.

I have to say, however, that I was distressed to speak with so many students (and a few of the chaperones) who had never heard about 4-H or the many opportunities available to them through the 4-H Youth Development Program. And, since Extension Associations across the nation are celebrating National 4-H Week this week, I thought I might take a few minutes here to spread the word.

4-H is the youth education branch of the Cooperative Extension Service, a program of the United States Department of Agriculture. The 4-H Youth Development Program is an informal program designed to provide opportunities for children and teens to cultivate, practice and apply life skills as they are learned, and to create supportive learning environments that will enable both youth and adults to achieve and to reach their fullest potential.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County promotes youth development through 4-H clubs and by offering opportunities for our club members to participate in the Franklin County Fair, the New York State Fair, statewide 4-H Youth Gatherings including the Albany Capital Days trip, National 4-H Conferences, and events at Cornell University. There are also shows, field trips and other 4-H experiences and activities, such as those available at 4-H Camp Overlook in Mountain View.

When a child joins 4-H, he or she takes membership in a truly unique, informal education program; one of the largest youth programs in the world. 4-H youth come from all economic and cultural backgrounds: farms, rural communities, small towns, the suburbs and big cities. They learn by doing, and work hard at creating distinctively 4-H projects. I have, many times, been truly inspired by the effort, creativity and hard work of our 4-H club members as they made posters, crafts, scrapbooks, sewing and gardening projects, and then proudly submitted them for judging at the county fair.

I've taken great pleasure in watching as they readied stalls and pens to house their prized horses, cows, goats and sheep. Words cannot describe the love, pride and individual care given by these remarkable, exuberant boys and girls, to their exceptional animals.

Club membership is available to all youth, ages 5 to 19, regardless of gender, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, etc. Our adult volunteers are provided with leadership training, project instruction, and assistance and support from Extension staff. And, in addition to carrying out their responsibilities as club leaders and special interest group instructors, they serve on 4-H Boards of Directors and advisory committees.

The 4-H pledge: I pledge my head to clear 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; it isn't just words. It's about decision making and knowledge, strong personal values, positive self-concept and concern for others. It's about workforce preparedness and a healthy lifestyle. The 4-H pledge is a promise of friendship and of friendships that will span generations. It's a pledge to learn new skills and to discover abilities and talents that you can take with you and use throughout your lifetime - abilities and talents you never even knew you had. It's about shared experiences and about sharing your time and your talents with others. It's about fun, learning, and doing really cool things. It's about family and community responsibility, hard work and success, and developing attitudes and habits that will help us all meet the challenges of today and the future. The 4-H pledge is about building a world in which youth and adults learn, grow and work together as catalysts for positive change.

Cornell Cooperative Extension encourages you to learn more about the 4-H program, as well as all of the other programs and services that we offer. It's easy to join 4-H. All you have to do is contact your local Cooperative Extension office.

Why not join us? Get your children involved. Or become one of the many parents, volunteers, community leaders, and Extension staff sharing their time and talents with 4-H youth in your county. You'll be glad you did.



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