4-H has always been known as a beneficial youth development program but still so many might wonder, why should I choose 4-H and can I do it if I don’t live on a farm?

In 4-H, all youth members have opportunities to learn a number of new skills that will follow them throughout life, no matter what their background might be.

As our 4-H pledge states, when they use their HEAD, they are learning to make decisions, set goals, plan and organize, keep records, how to be resilient, among other skills. HEARTs are used when skills around relating and caring are incorporated: communicating, cooperating, accepting differences, empathy, nurturing and building relationships. By using their HANDS, 4-H members are giving back to others, becoming responsible leaders, working on teamwork, being a self-motivator and gaining marketable/useful skills that will be used down the road.

Finally, they are improving their HEALTH when they are considerate of healthy life-style choices, how to manage stress, build their self esteem, build character, and manage their feelings.

The skill building begins when they are cloverbud age which is grades kindergarten — second grade and continues throughout their membership which can go until age 19. Some take advantage of multiple opportunities within 4-H while others may choose to focus on selected passions. Since 4-H focuses on different areas including: agriculture, citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs, producing these skills and selecting career paths happens frequently.

There are a variety of methods for 4-H members to develop these skills and passions. It can be on an individual level when they are working on projects or attending workshops and trainings. Perhaps they are participating in their 4-H club meetings and activities or being involved in county and state committees/groups. Some choose to attend leadership retreats that may also expose them to youth outside their home county.

Camp is a great example of learning and using the skills as some start as campers and are eventually leading as counselors! For the youth who enjoy learning and taking it to a competitive level, there are judging teams, project bowl teams, engineer and design opportunities, and the county and state fair opportunities. One of the awesome aspects of this skill building is that fun and hands on activities are part of these experiences. Youth and their families can choose the level of participation and make it work for them. In 4-H, the opportunities are endless!

If you have connections to youth who are looking to become more involved and either discover their passions or put them into play while gaining life skills, now is the perfect time to join 4-H. Our new year officially kicks off on Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30.

Connect with your county Extension office to get more information. If you’re outside of Rice County, visit our MN 4-H website for more information. Otherwise, feel free to email chadw021@umn.edu or call 507-330-2018.

Kelly Chadwick is the Rice County 4-H program coordinator.

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