Gwen Taylor Fontenot | 9/8/2009 11:35:22 PM
4-H in Natchitoches Parish is a part of a local, state, national and international youth program. The program was established as a three way partnership between: the United States Department of Agriculture; state land grant universities, Louisiana State University and Southern University; and local government, including the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury, Natchitoches Parish School Board, City of Natchitoches and Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Office. It is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States.
4-H is a fun and exciting youth organization that offers hands-on learning or experiential learning as the foundation of the program. This occurs through project work, method demonstrations, contests, workshops, Junior Leader club activities, camps and service activities and service learning.
The program is described by the National 4-H Office as “4-H is a community of young people…across America…who are learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.” This statement was selected as a consistent message to be used across the country when one is asked to describe 4-H.
Membership is open to all youth in Natchitoches Parish who are 9 years old before January 1 of the current year and who are not yet 20 years old on January 1. The program is open to all people regardless of race, color, gender, age, handicap, religion or national origin. A monthly club meeting is held at approximately 15 schools in the parish. The 4-H agents conduct a series of monthly educational programs in public, private and community clubs. Club members elect officers: president, vice president, secretary, reporter, and treasurer. The officers with assistance from the volunteer leaders, plan educational activities, service projects and conduct club meetings each month. Parents may contact their child’s school 4-H Club leader to assist. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to assist our school teachers in their role as 4-H leader.
4-H agents in our parish develop and execute educational programs and activities that provide youth the opportunity to develop such life skills as self-esteem, community and citizen responsibility, decision-making, organization and social interaction. These characteristics allow youth the self confidence and communications skills to achieve the 4-H mission: through non-formal, research-based, experiential activities, 4-H members gain knowledge and life skills enabling them to become positive, productive, capable and compassionate members of their communities.
4-H agents are assisted by programmatic specialists of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, which is part of Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. The success of our local program is due to the tremendous success of our school teachers who serve as organizational leaders, parent volunteers and other volunteers that continue to share their time, talents and special touch with the youth of the program. Many serve in various capacities such as members of advisory leadership councils and/or committee, project leaders, contest day judges, etc. Through these leadership roles, adult and youth volunteers serve as equal partners in the decision-making process.
Annual enrollment begins in September through October of each school year. Members complete an enrollment card by selecting at least one project and paying their annual membership dues. A variety of parish contests and activities are conducted throughout the program year, September through August. These contests are open to only 4-H members. Project books are given out to each member in October and provide a variety of special activities related to a topic. The member can work on the activities at home or with other 4-H'ers interested in the same topic. We advise parents to lead by example through motivation, encouragement and guidance.
Monthly newsletters are given out along with contest rules at the club meetings. The newsletters can also be accessed at various sub-channels of our website. They include announcements of workshops as well as a wide variety of educational activities. Many parents have found these newsletters to be educational.
A 4-H Portfolio competition is another way to get members motivated to highlight their yearly accomplishments. Project books are usually due in late March/early April of each year. These books are judged and outstanding members are recognized for their accomplishments.
4-H members are not only encouraged to be an active participant in their school or community club but also on a parish and state level. There are many opportunities available to youth! Parish activities include overnight camps, livestock shows, cookery contests, shooting sports, project clubs, the Junior Leadership Club, poster contests, Parish Ag Day, and 4-H Experience Day! Opportunities also exist on the state level. Youth can also: attend 4-H University (formerly Short Course) and the LSU and Southern University Livestock Shows; become members of the State Boards (Citizenship, Executive, Fashion, Food and Fitness and Science, Engineering and Technology); participate in Marsh Maneuvers and Wild Wood Wanderings and compete for numerous scholarships and trips.
Parents may contact their child’s school 4-H club leader at the school to assist in various capacities. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to assist our club leaders in their role as 4-H leader. The more volunteers that support and assist a club, the more individual time and attention that can be spent in shaping the lives of the youth.
For more information on the Natchitoches Parish 4-H club program, please contact the Natchitoches LSU AgCenter 318-357-2224.