This week is National 4-H Week. One may think of 4-H as green clovers and county fairs. These are important parts of the 4-H program, but there's much more. As one of the largest youth programs in the United States with more than 6.5 million young people, 4-H provides many activities in which youth can grow and learn. In Bourbon County 186 youth are currently 4-H members.
4-H is an organization where kids "learn by doing." And, at the same time, they have fun. There are nearly 40 project areas from which they may choose, ranging from beef to bicycles, electricity to entomology, forestry to food and nutrition, photography to plant science, rabbits to rockets. Projects integrate science, technology and healthy living principles to help a child grow and learn. In addition to subject-matter skills, many young people develop interests which lead to a career or a lifelong hobby. Opportunities to participate in events on a county, area, state and national level are plentiful. While the knowledge and skills learned about a particular subject are important, the real benefit of 4-H is in the life skills learned.
Those life skills are a positive self-concept, an inquiring mind, a concern for the community, healthy interpersonal relationships, and sound decision making. These life skills represent the qualities that help young people to become confident, capable, caring, and responsible adults.
Creating opportunities for youth to develop skills and confidence for public speaking and leadership are cornerstones of 4-H. Members are encouraged to contribute to their communities by participating in various community events and activities. Several members of the 4-H Junior Leaders group have recently distributed United Way packets to businesses in the community and have taken part in Relay for Life activities.
While some youth activities send family members in different directions, 4-H is a family activity in that children of different ages may be involved in the same 4-H club. 4-H encourages families to spend time together, learning new skills and participating in activities.
The 4-H program places an emphasis on character education. Using the Six Pillars of Character from the Character Counts program of the Josephson Institute, 4-H members are encouraged to practice the character traits of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, citizenship and caring.
4-H, like many other youth groups, relies heavily on volunteers who are involved in nearly every aspect of the program. All volunteers go through an orientation and screening process to insure a safe, caring and positive experience for youth.
The community is also important for the success of 4-H. Community support of all aspects of the 4-H program is greatly appreciated.
4-H is open to all youth between the ages of 7 and 18. Since the 4-H year starts in October, now is a great time to get involved. 4-H has no membership fees. The only costs are those associated with project materials and activities in which members choose to participate. In Bourbon County, youth need to join 4-H and have their enrollment cards to the Extension office before Jan. 1 to be eligible to take part in next year's county fair 4-H division.
Bourbon County has seven 4-H community clubs -- three meet in Fort Scott and one each at Hiattville, Uniontown, Hammond and the Bethel community building. Prospective members and their parents are always welcome to visit a club meeting. Contact the extension office on first floor of the courthouse, or call (620) 223-3720 for information on club meeting times and dates.