FARMINGTON -- Across the country, millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni are celebrating National 4-H Week, held Oct. 6-12.
In Washington County, about 450 kids, ages 5-19, are involved in 23 active 4-H clubs, according to Jane Ahrends, 4-H program assistant with the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Washington County Cooperative Extensive Service.
"4-H helps develop our future leaders by empowering them to their best ability in every area," Ahrends said. "It's not just agriculture and family consumer science. It's everything."
The theme of this year's National 4-H Week is Inspire Kids to Do, which highlights how 4-H encourages kids to take part in hands-on learning experiences in areas such as health, science, agriculture and civic engagement.
Two area 4-H leaders, Wendy Burrus with Bethel Grove 4-H and Tracy Gregg with Vet Science 4-H, said many people think you have to live on a farm to be part of 4-H.
That's a misconception, Gregg said.
"There's no requirement that you have to live on a farm or have livestock to be in 4-H," Gregg said, adding he knows members who've participated in many areas of 4-H outside animals and farm-related projects.
"It's not all cows, corn and cooking," Burrus said.
The organization focuses on citizenship and leadership skills and provides many opportunities for members in lots of areas, including communication, community service, health/well-being, photography and video, shooting sports and arts and humanities.
Burrus' youngest daughter is a member of Bethel Grove 4-H and her two older daughters participated while they were growing up.
She said she believes her girls benefited from 4-H in many ways, particularly through opportunities that gave them experience in public speaking and leadership.
Bethel Grove's service projects have included packing and delivering goody bags for veterans and donating food for the Little Pantry in Prairie Grove. This year's service project is to help 7 Hills Homeless Shelter in Fayetteville.
Gregg said Vet Science 4-H is a regular 4-H club but members at age 15 have the opportunity to enter a self-guided study to go through a veterinarian assistant program. Youth who complete the course earn a vet assistant certification and are eligible to apply for a position in a vet clinic.
The program gives a student the opportunity to learn about being a vet and experience in the field, Gregg said.
Gregg and his wife, Lisa, have been involved with 4-H since their daughter entered the program at age 5. Now, their daughter is president of the collegiate 4-H Club at Oklahoma State University and she is referencing her achievements with Vet Science 4-H in applying for vet school.
"That's not an unusual thing," Gregg said. "It's a big help for these students to have those opportunities.
Ahrends said 4-H does not have a fee to join. Some costs may be involved with different projects and activities. Children and youth can visit different 4-H chapters to see if one fits them better than another one.
Personally, Ahrends said she's seen children grow through 4-H. She recalls one girl who was too shy to even introduce herself.
Similar to FFA, 4-H has its own competitions and students can compete at the local level, advance to the regional and state level and even to national competitions.
"We learn by doing," Ahrends said. "The motto for 4-H is 'To make the best better.'"General News on 10/09/2019
Print Headline: 4-H: Not Just 'Cows, Corn and Cooking' Anymore