National 4-H Week brings out ‘The Power of YOUth’

4-H’ers across the nation and in Hood River County are celebrating National 4-H Week from Oct. 5-11. “The Power of YOUth” is the theme of this year’s National 4-H Week. The 4-H youth development program empowers youth to reach their full potential working and learning in partnership with caring adults.

Last year in Hood River County the 4-H Youth program involved 561 youth in the volunteer led clubs. These clubs were led by 93 different volunteer leaders. Nationally there are more than seven million members and 600,000 volunteers.

The 4-H program is designed to teach youth skills they can use today and all through their life. It is accomplished through a 4-H club model in which a volunteer leader guides the club in a project area. The project areas are divided into five categories; animal science, home economics, natural science, arts and mechanical science. During the last 4-H year in Hood River County, 4-H’ers enrolled in 1,459 different projects.

The project types varied as much as our valley is different. In the animal projects swine was the most popular project but coming in with a close second in project size were goats followed by rabbits. 4-H’ers are also enrolled in beef, sheep, poultry, horse and llama projects.

Art is also an area that draws much interest. Our two Mexican dance groups are very popular, plus many 4-H’ers also enjoyed fiber arts, painting and photography projects. The clothing and textile area is one that continues to grow, with youth interested not only learning how to sew clothing items but many fun home art projects. There is also a renewed interest in the areas of knitting and crocheting. The interest in foods and nutrition remains high, with a reemerging interest in food preservation.

Two new projects were started in Hood River last year that proved to be very popular. The new scrapbooking club had a lot of fun learning the art principals and to how to incorporate them in making an attractive book. The second club took the members outside looking for bugs. The new Entomology club had a lot of fun looking for and catching different insects. The project possibilities are endless, depending on the interest of the youth.

The 4-H Adventures Club is designed for the younger person, age’s kindergarten to 3rd grade. This program is modeled after the traditional 4-H club except it has a non-competitive focus. Last year Hood River County had 72 4-H Adventure members.

The 4-H club program tries to remain relevant to the needs and interests of today’s youth. For example one popular summer youth project is a summer 4-H soccer league. There is also a 4-H Leadership Team for older youth that focuses on developing leadership skills through involvement of projects.

Why do young people still want to be a part of 4-H, even though the program was designed over 100 years ago? Because the “learn by doing” model of 4-H is successful, as it provides a format for the youth to learn, gain skills and have fun. All of this happens in a safe environment that is directed by a caring adult. If you ask a 4-H’er what they gain from being in 4-H, you will get many answers. But the top 10 reasons to be involved in 4-H are: develop skills to succeed, make new friends, try new things, be a leader, show what I can do, have fun, make a difference, be what I dream, travel to new places, and work with the adults who care.

The 4-H program uses the 4-H project model as the method to teach youth development. If you were to talk to a 4-H alum and ask what they learned from 4-H, most don’t remember what they cooked or how many animals they raised, instead they will talk about the life skills learned. While skills gained in learning how to sew or raise an animal are important, they are only part of the benefit of 4-H. Because of the unique design of the project model, 4-H’ers are also able to gain many lifelong skills such as leadership, communication, responsibility and teamwork.

The strength of the 4-H program depends on the strength of the volunteer leaders. Leaders are the backbone of the program as they are the ones that work directly with the youth by teaching, guiding and caring. The size of our program is directly related to the strength of the volunteer pool in the county.

To help “Keep the Power of YOUth” strong in Hood River County, become a 4-H member or volunteer leader. For additional information, contact the Hood River County Extension at 386-3343 or e-mail her at: billie.stevens@oregonstate.edu

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