Terril D. Faul | 4/19/2005 10:28:30 PM
Nearly 82,000 youth in Louisiana have found a home in 4-H. The new school year offers the opportunity for students to join 4-H clubs where they can interact with others who have common interests, according to LSU AgCenter educator Terril Faul, 4-H state leader.
Once considered an organization primarily for rural and farm youngsters, 4-H for many years has offered a wide range of projects, including aerospace, communications, computers, the environment, electrical energy, horticulture, entomology (insects), photography and vet science, in addition to numerous other topics, Faul says.
The Louisiana 4-H program also is one of the leaders in the country in the character education program. Some 1,500 clubs are active around the state, including the densely populated urban areas. Character education is conducted in all 64 parishes in Louisiana.
Besides offering educational opportunities, Faul says 4-H helps youth develop life skills that are important for success in school, in personal relations and later in earning a living. These include self-esteem, communicating, commitment to others, problem solving, decision making, getting and using information, managing resources and working with others.
Enrollment is available for those in the 4th through 12th grade, with the program tailored for two broad groups – grades 4-6 and grades 7-12. In turn, each grade level has its own focus, ranging from working with others in the 4th grade to independent living in the 12th. Once enrolled, a member becomes part of a club.
"A 4-H club is a group of young people who want to use their heads, hearts, hands and health to become the best they can be and to become positive, capable and compassionate members of their communities," Faul says, referring to the h’s in 4-H.
Every 4-H member selects at least one project or subject to learn about. Each project has its own project book that guides the 4-H’er through the topic. Completing a project means doing the activities in the book and participating in parish workshops, regional and state programs and activities. 4-H’ers also learn about the four initiatives, which are Workforce Preparation, Leadership and Volunteer Development, Character Education and After School Education.
"Many 4-H’ers like to learn more about a subject, so they join a project group," Faul says, adding, "They dig deeper into the topic with more challenging activities." Volunteer leaders meet with them to guide them through hands-on activities. Meetings are held in homes, schools and public buildings.
"‘Learn by doing’ is the 4-H club slogan," Faul says, explaining, "4-H members don’t just read about things. They do them." He says they make things, they take part in club meetings, they learn interesting new ideas, they learn to follow, they learn to lead. He notes that 4-H’ers help their neighbors and their neighborhoods through club activities.
Each club has its own officers, with adult support from volunteer leaders and LSU AgCenter extension agents. A leader may be anyone interested in working with young people. Organizational leaders supervise clubs, and project leaders help 4-H’ers complete project activities. Parents are encouraged to participate.
Older 4-H’ers also may be eligible to become junior or teen leaders. They join special clubs where they develop even stronger leadership skills and do service projects. Special awards are available for those who teach others and perform community service.
Faul says 4-H is the most popular youth organization in the United States and recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about the program. For additional information, log on to the 4-H section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/