National 4-H Week Celebrates Youth, 4-H Mission

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I imagine trying to squeeze 117 birthday candles onto a homemade cake and smile to myself. That is about how old 4-H is, and this week millions of 4-H youth, parents, volunteers and alumni will celebrate another year for the nation’s largest youth organization.

During National 4-H Week, which is always celebrated during the first full week of October, members are encouraged to wear green, invite their friends to a 4-H event, and celebrate the previous year’s accomplishments.

The theme of this year’s National 4-H Week, October 6-12, is Inspire Kids to Do, which highlights how 4-H encourages kids to take part in hands-on learning experiences in areas such as health, science, agriculture and civic engagement. The positive environment provided by 4-H mentors ensures that kids in every county and parish in the country ̶ from urban neighborhoods to suburban schoolyards to rural farming communities ̶ are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles and are empowered with the skills to lead in life and career.

From the archives, a photo shows former 4-H members installing a welcome sign in Caldwell County

From the archives, a photo shows former 4-H members installing a welcome sign in Caldwell County

As a part of our local celebration, Caldwell County 4-H will participate in a backpack service event Wednesday with United Way. Their backpack project, like others in the local area, involve preparing packaged food kits for children who have been identified as food insecure. The kits are distributed for weekend meals and snacks, when meals provided by the schools are absent.

4-H youth helping Wednesday will also have a conversation about why the project is important and be encouraged to think about additional ways they can share with others.

On Thursday, families will be encouraged to learn about 4-H history. Most of the time, 4-H is looking to the future with its programs and the development of youth opportunities, but the special occasion of National 4-H Week makes for a unique time to look to the past.

At a national level, there are efforts to preserve 4-H history and digitize some of its records. The Extension center here in Caldwell County has at least a stack or two of photo albums and other records of local 4-H history.

Debbie Johnston and Lisa Appleby receive a 1997 Volunteer Leadership Team Award on behalf of the Oak Hill 4-H Club.

Debbie Johnston and Lisa Appleby receive a 1997 Volunteer Leadership Team Award on behalf of the Oak Hill 4-H Club.

Participants of the 1978 Exchange group to Jackson County, West Virginia pose for a photograph. Four of the subjects are Wilma Byrd, Jane Greeson, Penny Walker and Maleah Jett.

Participants of the 1978 Exchange group to Jackson County, West Virginia pose for a photograph. Four of the subjects are Wilma Byrd, Jane Greeson, Penny Walker and Maleah Jett.

4-H itself began with after-school and youth clubs called, “The Tomato Club” or the “Corn Growing Club,” according to the National 4-H Council. Researchers in the late 1800’s and 1900’s had a difficult time getting farmers to widely adopt best practices they were studying, but youth were interested in new ideas and could share them with relatives or neighboring farms after having successful hands-on experiences. What an impact youth had on the implementation of science-based practices!

Hands-on learning was and still is the way to go. While some 4-H members still plant corn and tomatoes, later this month others will explore topics like meteorology, computer science, horsemanship and so much more. I hope generations to come will find joy through 4-H as it fosters qualities of curiosity, civility and friendship.

Locke Sholar shows off sling-making skills during a summer 4-H class with the Caldwell County Community Emergency Response Team. Today 4-H teaches youth about agriculture and other subjects, such as healthy living and safety.

Locke Sholar shows off sling-making skills during a summer 4-H class with the Caldwell County Community Emergency Response Team. Today 4-H teaches youth about agriculture and other subjects, such as healthy living and safety.

For more information about local 4-H, visit our website, caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu or give us a call at 828-757-1258. Caldwell County 4-H is a member agency of United Way, and it enthusiastically supports its partnerships.