We all have busy schedules filled with church and sporting events, band performances and drama practices. I understand. As my children get older, the busier our family schedule becomes. It is a love/hate relationship. I love watching my kids get involved and learn life skills, but I do hate watching my calendar all marked up. So why would a family want to get involved with 4-H? All it does is add more pen on the calendar! Because of those life skills that 4-H teaches our kids!
It is well known that employers love seeing 4-H involvement on a resume. Why is that? What does 4-H add to our children. Responsibility. There is a word that I have tossed around to my own kids. We as parents want our kids to learn what it means to be responsible. 4-H youth who bring home an animal either in the fall, winter, or spring; these kids oversee the care for that animal. Those youths need to be the ones watering, feeding, and caring for their animals because it teaches them responsibility. If these kids want to do well at the fair, they must be the ones taking care of their projects and building a bond between the animal and caregiver.
Being a part of a 4-H club, provides many opportunities to our youth. Clubs put youth in leadership roles such as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. A leadership role provides the opportunity for a member to learn how to be part of group – something bigger than just them. Being part of team whether it’s a sports team, 4-H club, church committee or community group. Youth learn what it means to be a part of a club. There are ways they can speak their thoughts without hurting other ideas. It’s important to make sure that all the groups’ thoughts are heard, and they work with each other. This is very important when working with other. We as adults don’t always get our way, when working with a group of other adults. Learning how to deal with not getting your way is a great thing to learn earlier in life.
A recent trend shows volunteerism is declining among adults. People just don’t want to volunteer their time as much as we have seen 20-30 years ago. 4-H shows these youth that volunteering is something that is a personal reward. With out volunteers our program would not be able be what it is today. Churches need volunteers, communities need volunteers. There are so many organizations out there today that rely on volunteers. If we as parents never show our children how beneficial volunteering is, to our communities or to ourselves. Why would they want to volunteer later in life. 4-H having the pre-fair workdays, watching the sheep, goat, swine, pens go up, needing help lay the mulch down for the beef, working hard and then being able to see the benefit of their hard work is priceless.
Not a lot of people just love public speaking. I know that I am one that does not enjoy being up front with a microphone. But has my mom has told me ‘Practice makes perfect’! 4-H gives the youth opportunities to practice their public speaking. From the club leaders speaking in front of their club, to the royal court speaking in front of the large crowd at the Recognition Banquet. There are so many ways these kids can get better at this skill. The Awareness Team that gets together and presents in front of 3rd graders, getting them excited about joining 4-H, is another great opportunity for public speaking. Collaborating with a group (there is that team building skill) to bring all of their thoughts to life in a presentation. Youth seem to be a little nervous at first going into these classes, but once they are done with their presentation, the pride that these youth have in themselves, and their group is amazing.
Another thing that 4-H can teach a young person is about keeping a calendar, the importance of deadlines and due dates. Everyone loves deadlines and due dates. Right? Ha nope, we do not. But without them it would be chaos. For a youth to learn to keep a calendar and keep track of a deadline is an essential part of being an adult. We all have deadlines at work, a job needs to get finished, a report needs to be done. The 4-H member enrollment deadline is April 1st. If a youth member is not enrolled in the Oh.4H.online system by that date, then this individual is not able to exhibit at the fair. That is an important deadline! When the boss at work says time sheets need turned in by Friday at noon or you don’t get paid, that is an important deadline. Teens learning how to manage a calendar and keep track of what is coming up and not double booking or over booking, is an essential life skill. College classes, work meetings, all these things we as adults keeping track of. What a great thing to teach our kids young!
There are so many other things that 4-H teaches our kids. What a great program that teaches life skills! A program that yes adds pen to your calendars, but your youth will come out of 4-H a leader! A teen that has a skill set not others in their age bracket do. Your teen will be put above the rest of the applicants when they have 4-H Club Officer, on their resume. A teen that has practiced working with a team is a great asset to a company or an organization. 4-H is a youth work development program, and it shows!
Diane Johnson is a 4-H Youth Development Program Assistant with OSU Extension Wayne County.
This article was previously published in The Bargain Hunter.