Vermont Celebrates National 4-H Week
- By Sarah Kleinman
Burlington--Oct. 7-13 is National 4-H Week, celebrated annually to recognize the valuable role that the 4-H program plays in shaping today's youths into tomorrow's leaders. This year's theme is the 4-H Revolution of Responsibility, signifying that 4-H'ers are making real impacts in their communities.
In Vermont, 1,700 young people, ages eight to 18, participate in projects, activities and events as members of 138 University of Vermont (UVM) Extension 4-H clubs. During National 4-H Week, clubs throughout the state will create window displays in local storefronts and businesses to promote 4-H by showcasing their project work.
"While many people view 4-H as a program for farm kids, 4-H is much more than that and the benefits are great," says Sarah Kleinman, State 4-H Program Director. "Participation in 4-H does make a difference for all kids, not just those who live on farms or are interested in animals.
Although 4-H does offer dairy, sheep, horse and other livestock projects, Vermont 4-H'ers also can enroll in projects to learn about clothing, gardening, cooking, photography, dog care, natural resources and shooting sports, among a number of other options. Events such as the annual 4-H State Day allow them to share what they've learned in 4-H project work with the public.
"By participating in 4-H clubs and activities youths have the opportunity to develop both life and job skills," Kleinman adds. "Their 4-H experience builds off their interests and allows positive opportunities for them to discover, learn and create while building valuable friendships and relationships with mentors."
Leadership also is key to 4-H with many 4-H'ers taking an active leadership role in their clubs or on committees or boards for coordinating events. The 4-H Teen Board, open to interested teens ages 13 and older, is responsible for planning the 4-H Teen Congress and 4-H Mini-Congress.
Older 4-H'ers may enhance their leadership skills by attending Citizenship Washington Focus in Washington, D.C., one of the largest national citizenship education programs for youth, or 4-H events such as the annual Youth Environmental Summit in Montpelier where they can discuss environmental issues with their peers.
Recent findings from Tufts University's 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development indicate that young people in 4-H are three times more likely to contribute to their communities than youths not participating in 4-H. Notably, the Tufts research discovered that the structured learning, encouragement and adult mentoring that 4-H'ers receive play a vital role in helping them actively contribute to their communities.
"We know from research that kids who participate in 4-H in Vermont are more likely to set and reach their goals, attend college and give back to their communities than their counterparts," Kleinman notes.
In addition to traditional 4-H clubs, UVM Extension 4-H also offers 4-H after-school and out-of-school programs, open to both non-4-H'ers and 4-H youths. These feature a range of topics from digital photography and robotics to embryology. Vermont 4-H also coordinates Operation: Military Kids, which provides educational and recreational activities for military kids as well as support during deployment.
To learn more about 4-H in Vermont, contact the state 4-H office toll-free at (800) 571-0668.