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Serving: MO
two young girls on 4-H float and same girls with adult at Busch Stadium
FORMATIVE YEARS: 4-H taught our daughters to be bold, love life and work hard starting at an early age. Whether it was taking part in a county parade (left) or visiting Busch Stadium in St. Louis, our family benefited from being involved.

4-H made parent-teacher conferences less intimidating

The youth organization helped my girls’ transition from home school to public school.

That first parent-teacher conference can be a scary one — for the parent. It’s not too often you sit across the desk from someone whose purpose is to judge your child’s intellect and ability. There was an extra bit of anxiety with my first conference. This was the first time my kids were in a public school classroom.

After hearing about our youngest’s progress, I was relieved. So, I shared a bit of our family story to which the fourth-grade teacher responded, “I never would’ve guessed she was home-schooled. I thought she was probably a 4-H kid, though.”

Those words stuck with me over the years. She could actually tell my child was in 4-H. So, what is it about this program that sets kids apart?

There are three reasons why I think this teacher could tell our daughter was in 4-H.

1. 4-H made them articulate. 4-H teaches kids at a very young age to stand up and speak. From demonstrations to personal interviews, they learn how to interact with fellow 4-H’ers and adults. 4-H teaches them to be comfortable in their surroundings. Because how many 10-year-olds do you know that can command the attention of a group of 50 8- to 18-year-olds during a club meeting? Still, these young members serve as officers and conduct business. Teachers recognize 4-H promotes leaders.

2. 4-H improved their attitude. It is all about offering others respect. 4-H members learn how to respect those in authority such as club leaders, along with their fellow members. These are the kids when faced with a decision on what to type of float to enter in the fair parade, they have a discussion. They may not always agree on the float, but they listen and respect other opinions. Teachers notice 4-H kids are respectful during classroom group activities.

3. 4-H taught them to act. Whether it is completing a livestock project or picking up trash as community service, 4-H'ers work hard. That type of discipline carries over to school. These are the kids that no matter how difficult the task, they keep at it until it is finished because, let’s face it, these are the 100-pound kids that spend hours breaking a 1,300-pound steer to walk gently around a ring with just a lead rope. There is nothing they can’t accomplish if they put their mind to it. I think teachers notice their dedication.

I’ve always thought 4-H reaches well beyond those Sunday afternoon club meetings. I knew the lessons my girls learned there improved our home, but it took one parent-teacher conference to realize it affected schools as well. That is worth celebrating this National 4-H Week.

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