4-H’ers and friends of the program come together to celebrate this during National 4-H Week, held on Oct. 1-7 this year. The theme is “I Love 4-H,” which invites incoming members to learn more about the program from both current members and alumni sharing why they fell in love with the program.
“A community 4-H club gives youth the opportunity to meet people they may not already know and to be a leader in a safe environment where they won’t be judged and can hone their skills,” Hannah Fincham, WVU Extension agent in Randolph County, said. “We need to be involved in making positive changes in our community, and 4-H is one of the ways we can do that.”
There are two main types of 4-H clubs, community clubs and special interest clubs. Community clubs meet monthly to plan events and service projects, as well as offer opportunities to learn about various topics through project work and guest speakers. Special interest clubs focus on one specific topic, like shooting sports or teen leadership. Clubs offer youths the opportunity to learn about and participate in valuable community service events in their communities and throughout the state.
Some previous service activities that clubs have organized include making beds for animal shelters, delivering holiday food boxes in their community, making cards for local nursing homes, donating food to food pantries, organizing coat drives and participating in beautification projects in their town, to name a few.
During the 2022-2023 4-H year, there were nearly 550 clubs throughout the state and more than 9,700 West Virginia 4-H club members. Participants learn about a variety of topics, including health, citizenship, leadership and other important life skills.
“To me, the most rewarding thing about 4-H clubs is being able to expand students’ views,” said Michelle Harman, WVU Extension 4-H clubs, special interest programs and volunteer support program specialist. “To see that light, that they’ve learned something, and to see them get excited about something, that’s really fulfilling.”
There are many opportunities to learn in 4-H clubs, from hosting guest speakers at meetings to 4-H project books that cover everything from woodworking to mental health. No matter what a young person is interested in, there is something for everyone.
Each year, 4-H members can choose one or more project books to complete throughout the year. A 4-H project is a combination of hands-on activities, record-keeping, leadership and communication opportunities. There are more than 60 project areas to choose from, many offering multiple levels, so youths can dive deeper into the subject of their choice.
Youths have the opportunity to present these projects at their clubs, county fairs, the State Fair of West Virginia and even enter them into the State Presentation Expo. Gold ribbon winners at the State Presentation Expo can move on to compete at the regional level competition. This gives youths ample opportunities to learn critical public speaking skills.
There are also many opportunities for youths to gain valuable leadership experience in 4-H clubs by holding officer positions, leading group activities and even applying for and attending national conferences.
“When COVID happened, I was in the Teen Leaders club and got to go to the National 4-H Healthy Living Summit, but it was held virtually. I met a bunch of friends there, and then the year after that, I actually got to go to D.C. with the program and meet up with these friends that I had made at the virtual event,” said Gracie Littreal, a Raleigh County 4-H’er. “It was really cool – the Teen Leaders club has given me lots of opportunities to do different things like that, meet new people and do a lot of different service.”
4-H is delivered by Cooperative Extension—a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people from diverse backgrounds learn by doing. In West Virginia, one in every four youths is involved in 4-H.
“I think the coolest thing is seeing the growth in students at clubs,” said Bailey Coleman, a Hampshire County 4-H volunteer. “Year after year, the growth that they go through as they are going through the program and learning new things, taking different projects, and seeing their excitement for simply being together and learning is just a wonderful thing to experience and witness.”
If you are interested in experiencing the magic by joining a club or exploring 4-H activities in your area, contact your local WVU Extension office.
Youths between the ages of 9 and 21 can join 4-H with a parent or guardian’s permission. Younger children, ages 5 to 8, who are interested in 4-H can join Cloverbuds, which focuses more on fun and social activities that set the stage for future learning. College-aged students also can join any of the seven collegiate 4-H clubs in West Virginia.
To learn more about 4-H activities in your community and keep up with the latest in West Virginia 4-H news, follow @WestVirginia4H on Facebook and @wv_4h on Instagram.
If you want to learn more about WVU Extension, visit extension.wvu.edu or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
CONTACT: Sydney Keener