Denise Coolman | 6/24/2005 2:31:13 AM
Louisiana 4-H’ers are learning to be positive forces in their lives and for their communities.
Examples ranging from assembling "hero packs" to learning more about community service were seen this week (June 21-24) as nearly 1,600 4-H Club members from across the state participated in the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H University on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.
Those helping them learn the lessons at 4-H University included a former Miss Louisiana, who credits some of her success to her involvement in 4-H as a youngster, as well as university officials, a military adjutant general, the daughter of a deployed soldier and a host of 4-H Club members, volunteer leaders and faculty members.
But while it is one of the highlights for 4-H Club members, 4-H University is just one part of the learning and service activities that young people participate in all year long.
For example, during this week’s events in Baton Rouge, 4-H’ers heard about and participated in a service activity that’s been going on across the state all year.
That activity, known as "Operation: Military Kids – 4-HOPE," is a nationwide initiative that provides community support and educational programs to benefit youth and families of the U.S. Army National Guard, the U.S. Army Reserve and other branches of the military.
As a part of that effort, Louisiana 4-H’ers collected phone calling cards, writing tools, stationery, postage stamps, disposable cameras and a variety of other material designed to comfort children and help them stay in touch with family members who are deployed in military action.
During this week’s events in Baton Rouge, 4-H’ers assembled approximately 300 of the "hero packs" containing those materials, and they conducted a formal presentation to the Louisiana National Guard. Those came in addition to other packs that have been assembled and donated by 4-H’ers throughout the year.
Abby Imbornone of River Ridge is the daughter of a deployed soldier and told 4-H’ers actions such as this are very much appreciated.
"It’s nice to have someone tell you and show you they care," Imbornone said. "And for you to get involved speaks highly of you as a group. This shows the world that 4-H is made up of a great group of young people who are willing to step forward and make a difference in someone else’s life."
Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, also applauded the 4-H’ers for their part in the "Operation: Military Kids – 4 HOPE" project.
"This is a tremendous effort and an incredible service that you’re doing," Landreneau said. "The soldiers overseas will hear the about this and realize how much support you are giving them by supporting their families. This is the type of support the soldiers need. You are playing a very important role in offering support for our military men and women."
According to Landreneau, about 3,500 Louisiana National Guard personnel have been deployed in the past 12 months.
Brandon Andrews, a 4-H’er from Caddo Parish, said he is happy to help make the hero packs to give to military youth.
"I am happy to do this if it will make someone happy," Andrews said. "I believe we should all help one another and show one another we care for them."
The 4-H’ers also got life lessons from former 4-H’er Jennifer Dupont, who was Miss Louisiana 2004 and First Runner-up to Miss America 2005. She spoke to the 4-H’ers during Wednesday’s general assembly and encouraged them to take advantage of every opportunity they get to learn about something new.
"You are going to grow with every single experience," Dupont said. "Use what you are learning here at 4-H University to grow as a person."
Dupont said she has used skills she learned as a 4-H’er to help her achieve success in life. One of these skills is public speaking, which Dupont said she has used extensively.
"I also realized my love for service while I was in 4-H," she said. "Being in 4-H allowed me to make a difference in other people’s lives. I believe it is important that we do whatever we can to make other people’s lives better."
Another of the week’s speakers, Dr. Ben D. Welch, director of student activities at Texas A&M University, spoke about 10 characteristics of success – which he listed as determination, involvement, future, friendship, effort, respect, encouragement, name, character and enthusiasm.
"Take the first letter of each of these words, put the letters together and what do you get?" Welch asked. "You get DIFFERENCE. Every moment you live, you’re making an impact on someone else’s life. Every moment you live, you can make a difference in someone else’s life."
Dr. Sean O’Keefe, LSU chancellor, also welcomed the 4-H’ers and encouraged them to learn as much as they could during their stay on the LSU campus.
"It is a real privilege to have you here," O’Keefe said. "My daughter got her start in 4-H. By being in 4-H, she learned what she wanted to do when she goes to college. She starts college this fall and has decided she wants to be a veterinarian. Being involved in 4-H has helped her learn about what she wants to do with her life."
Dr. Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor, said the 4-H program is "truly an exceptional program." Richardson also encouraged the 4-H’ers to take advantage of the lessons taught during 4-H University.
"This is a chance for you to make new friends, renew old acquaintances, experience new things," Richardson said. "You will get out of it what you put into it. I encourage you to learn as much as you can, have a good time and enjoy yourselves."
This was the 91st year for 4-H University, formerly known as 4-H Short Course. It attracts youth from all over the state. For more information on 4-H and the variety of programs offered to all Louisiana citizens by the LSU AgCenter, go to www.lsuagcenter.com.
Writer: Denise Coolman at (318) 547-0921 or firstname.lastname@example.org