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The Cool Factor of 4-H

The Cool Factor of 4-H
Summer means 4-H camps, calves and projects, with new initiatives to communicate a time-honored message to youth.

As summer approaches, we’ve been busy bottle-feeding 4-H bucket calves around our place. All three of the 4-Hers in our family will be taking bucket calves to the county fair this August, in addition to numerous other projects ranging from photography, to pets, to woodworking.

Of course, the local club has been helping with service projects as well, making cookies for the senior center, cleaning up highways near town and flower beds around the school, taking part in the public speaking contest and planning for a busy summer.

That’s the way it goes in a 4-H family. Nothing new about the goals of 4-H, but the organization has definitely changed to fit the times.

In an interview I had last summer with University of Nebraska Extension 4-H program administrator, Kathleen Lodl, I learned that 4-H has actually grown in its outreach and extent in the state since I was a 4-Her 30 years ago.

Today’s 4-H is evening split in membership between rural and urban youth. Nebraska 4-H serves 42,000 members through traditional clubs, as it always has, but also serves 70,000 youth through school enrichment programs and another 10,000 at 4-H camps. Our state has one of the highest enrollment rates as a percentage of our population of any state in the nation.

According to Kathleen, one out of every three Nebraska young people in school is engaged in 4-H in some way. That’s pretty incredible impact if you ask me.

Of course, statistics tell us that traditional clubs are still the base for 4-H. But the organization has definitely taken on a “cool factor,” using more technology, web applications and social media to engage youth in new ways. Today’s 4-H centered on science, healthy living, career development, leadership and citizenship and agricultural literacy.

The list of potential projects, camps and programs for members is staggering, and so much more comprehensive than it was 30 years ago. As UNL Extension celebrates 100 years, it is a good idea to take stock in the impact 4-H has had on youth across the state.

Yes, we have a busy 4-H summer ahead of us, but that just means there are lessons that will be learned and memories that will be made that will last a lifetime for our children.

For more information, or to find a local club, check out the National 4-H website and the Nebraska 4-H website.

Here is this week’s discussion question. What is your most memorable 4-H moment from your youth? You can share your thoughts and observations here.

Get more farm news at Nebraska Farmer online, or follow me on Twitter @Husker Home Place.

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