4-H program helps thousands get good start in life
KEYSER - For thousands of young people throughout West Virginia, 4-H provides a creative outlet to learn new skills, make lifelong connections and encourage service to their communities. To celebrate this important youth development program, West Virginia University Extension Service will join 4-Hers across the nation in celebrating National 4-H Week (Oct. 3-9).
This year’s theme is “Find Your Spark.” In West Virginia, 4-H reaches more than 142,000 youths in all 55 counties through programs such as special interest clubs, STEM education, in-school activities, livestock projects and camping. Participants learn about a variety of topics, including health, citizenship, leadership and other important life skills.
Jeff Yokum remembers being a shy kid from Grant County, West Virginia, who had a hard time making friends in school. His involvement in the local 4-H program helped him gain a strong network of friends and mentors, while providing him opportunities to grow his confidence and imagine a world he never thought possible.
“4-H helped me gain self-confidence, which led to the beginning of some lifelong friendships. It provided me with the first opportunity to travel outside of our area and see new, amazing things,” said Yokum, a 4-H alumnus who retired from the U.S. Secret Service. “Before retiring, I was doing some form of public speaking on an almost daily basis—learning how to look comfortable, even when I may be shaking on the inside. My experience with 4-H helped me project a necessary confidence. But even more important, I learned how to effectively communicate with people of different backgrounds.”
4‑H is delivered by Cooperative Extension—a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people from diverse backgrounds learn by doing. In West Virginia, one in every four youths is involved in 4-H. Youths between the ages of 9 and 21 can join 4-H with a parent or guardian’s permission. Younger children, ages 5 to 8, who are interested in 4-H can join Cloverbuds, which focuses more on fun and social activities that set the stage for future learning. College-aged students also can join any of the seven collegiate 4-H clubs in the state.
“In addition to celebrating our 4-Hers across West Virginia, we hope that kids and their families will consider joining 4-H through one of the many activities offered at both the state and county level,” Brent Clark, director of WVU Extension Service 4-H Youth Development program, said. “Many of our counties offer special interest clubs and activities, as well as camps. We also have a number of statewide educational activities and programs that really help young people hone their leadership skills, gain new perspectives and make lifelong friends.”
To learn more about 4-H activities in your community, contact your local county WVU Extension Service office or visit extension.wvu.edu.
Keep up with the latest in West Virginia 4-H news on Facebook by following @WestVirginia4H and Instagram at @wv_4h.