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How 4-H and civic engagement go together

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By Cathy Toole

The skills taught throughout 4-H prepare youth for community involvement, with the idea that good leaders give back to their community in a variety ways.

Community service, through 4-H involves service learning in which youth learn a skill or skills and apply it to a service project. This traditional approach to service applies to clubs at the county level, and for some youth, can lead to the national conference and/or the 4-H Congress.

But at its core, civic engagement ties together education, socialization, business learning and charitable/volunteer service across the 4-H experience. It provides avenues for youth to support an industry, business or pursuit, accommodating virtually all interests.

This broad education in leadership and community involvement generally starts around age 9, when children are encouraged to explore the idea of leadership to determine what it means to them. Older middle school students take that idea to the next step, asking how they can be leaders in clubs and classrooms, and with family and friends. Toward the end of their 4-H participation in high school, youth can put leadership and service into practice, by doing a project that really speaks to them on a personal level.

Successful projects are not determined by size. Rather, success is gauged by the student’s ability to see an issue, formulate a plan and then enact the plan, big or small. Examples of successful civic engagement projects include coat drives and road-side clean up.

A recent, more advanced project raised awareness of middle-school bullying, reaching more than 1,000 students and adults. In another, a Madison County youth implemented a plan for her gold project to encourage fifth-graders to be “true to themselves” and not let media influence them. In Bourbon County, “Warm Fuzzies,” a yearly program with Markey Cancer Center, provides no-sew fleece blankets to cancer patients. And in Monroe County, a student got emergency early warning sirens for her county.  

Friday evening, the Henry County 4-H Dog Club joined forces with the Henry County Animal Clinic to help with the adoption of puppies by participating in the Light Up New Castle parade.  We are excited to report that one of the puppies featured was adopted.

If you are looking for a cute puppy for your child as a Christmas gift please begin by visiting the Henry County Animal Shelter.

These projects speak to the ultimate expression of service in the 4-H framework. When youth have had the full benefit of years of leadership training, they will be prepared and willing to initiate a civic engagement project thatspeaks to them on a personal level.

Upcoming 4-H events:

Dec. 9: Horse Club Meeting at the Henry County Cooperative Ext. office at 6 p.m.

Dec. 12: Advanced Cooking Club at the Henry County Cooperative Ext. office from 3:30-5 p.m. for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Dec. 13: Beginning Cooking Club at the Henry County Cooperative Ext. office from 3:30-5 p.m. for fourth- and fifth-graders.