Editor's note: Samm Johnson is Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development at the Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. The Your Neighbor column is written by a member of a local nonprofit group and appears frequently in Neighbors.
Many people think 4-H is only for youth who live on farms or in rural areas, but the fact is 4-H is for all Allen County youth from age 3 through grade 12.
Since 1902, 4-H has existed to serve youth, and we continue that tradition today with programs that help young people develop into caring, generous, community-minded adults. It is not too late to get in on the fun for 2013!
In Allen County, we offer three levels of 4-H programs: Our Cloverbud program is for age 3 through pre-kindergarten, our Mini program is for kindergarten through grade 2, and our traditional 4-H program is for grades 3 through 12.
With 60 project areas spanning the alphabet from aerospace to woodworking, all youth are sure to find a project that sparks interest and motivation to learn about the world around them. As is the case for many 4-H alumni, those interests lead to rewarding careers.
As a 10-year 4-H member myself, I can say with complete confidence that what I learned in 4-H has stayed with me and continues to influence who I am. In my current role as Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development for the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service in Allen County, I am lucky to have the opportunity to continue my work in 4-H.
4-H provides the perfect mix of fun and education. Youth are able to focus on specific projects and activities while learning invaluable skills they will use for their lifetimes. While we have a lot of fun, 4-H is also a youth organization that focuses on four simple mission mandates: belonging, independence, generosity and mastery.
First, 4-H provides youth with a sense of belonging. Through club activities, trips and service projects, 4-H members become part of a safe group where they feel valued and needed. Many studies suggest youth who feel they belong are much more likely to stick with commitments and to achieve their goals without giving up when times get tough. Youth who participate in positive extracurricular activities such as 4-H become adults who positively impact their communities.
Next, 4-H provides youth with opportunities for independence. It is important for youth to see themselves as active participants in the future. 4-H members today are our community leaders of tomorrow, and having that sense of independence gives 4-H members the confidence to face the world with their heads held high. 4-H members think for themselves but still value the importance of working in groups to accomplish goals.
Additionally, 4-H provides youth with the notion that generosity is valuable and that no one is too young to donate their time and talents to make the world a better place. 4-H members work on service projects throughout the year that give back to the community in various ways. Youth have so much energy and creativity, and 4-H helps them find an outlet for their amazing ideas to help others.
Finally, 4-H provides youth with mastery of project areas they find interesting. 4-H is not merely exhibiting a project at the Allen County Fair, but it provides experiential learning opportunities that help youth learn by doing.
Many people say they learn best by doing, and 4-H provides youth with learning experiences that assist them with mastering their areas of interest. 4-H projects often become passions, and passions often lead to rewarding careers.
4-H is for all youth. It is an organization that has stood the test of time and continues to strengthen communities with the impact it has on youth and adults alike. If you know of a young person who might be interested, have them contact the Allen County Purdue Extension office to begin the process of becoming a 4-H member!