CLAY COUNTY – As you read the headline for this article, I venture to guess that you thought “4-H, those kids are great at raising cows and growing corn.” I don’t blame you for thinking this as 4-H has a strong history in agriculture related programs. In fact, Florida 4-H was founded in 1909 with the purpose to educate boys on growing corn. From that beginning, 4-H has grown to become the nation’s largest afterschool youth development organization in the United States.
With National 4-H week coming up October 6-12th, there are a few things I’d like you to know about the Florida 4-H Youth Development Program. The first, and most important detail is that Florida 4-H is a child’s first class from the University of Florida. Yes, that’s right, GO GATORS! Florida 4-H is a program of UF/IFAS Extension, which is a tripartite partnership involving The United States Department of Agriculture, The University of Florida, and County Governments. This unique partnership exists not only in Florida, but in every state, meaning 4-H can be found in every state, every county, and is available to every child age 5-18 in the United States.
Next up I’d like you to know is that while 4-H has its humble beginnings growing corn, that’s not all we do. During the past 110 years, Florida 4-H has grown to focus on helping a child to develop skills that will help them throughout their life. Through 4-H clubs, overnight camps, workshops, and other programs, we strive to help youth find their “spark,” a passion or idea that everyone carries with them which brings them joy and hope. This can be anything from computer sciences, art, oceanography, agriculture, leadership…the possibilities are endless. If you have a child in Clay County Schools, you may have heard of them hatching chickens in their classroom, or the 4-H Tropicana public speaking contest. Both of those are 4-H programs and helped us to reach more than 13,000 youth last year in Clay County.
The last thing about 4-H that I’d like you to keep in mind is that our mission is nearly impossible without the fantastic volunteers who work with 4-H members. An essential element of our 4-H youth development programs is a positive relationship with a caring adult. Most often this happens through our trained 4-H volunteers who work with 4-H members to facilitate the club meetings and learning. Our volunteers are passionate in sharing their knowledge about their own “sparks” whether is healthy lifestyles, beekeeping, raising a steer, or a whole host of possibilities. Last year, our 249 Clay County 4-H volunteers gave 7,787 volunteer hours which equates to over $187,000 of economic value.
My hope is that through this article, you have a better idea about what 4-H is and how we work with fantastic volunteers to help youth grow and find their “sparks.” If you have a child that you’d like to get involved in 4-H, or are an adult who would like to share your knowledge with 4-H members, please feel free to give us a call. For more information about 4-H you can contact Matthew Olson at (904) 284-6355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.