National 4-H Week came and went last week without much fanfare in Texas County.
That’s in large part because the youth-based program – overseen in Missouri by University of Missouri Extension – doesn’t have the number of adult volunteers it needs on a local level, according to Texas County Extension Program Director Cammie Younger.
“It’s not necessarily hard to recruit children,” Younger said, “but it’s harder to get the adults to serve the children.”
Texas County 4-H includes about 70 kids involved in three clubs – one in Houston (“Texas County Rangers”), one in Bado (“God’s Clover Patch”) and another in Licking (“Licking Lucky Clovers”). The lone countywide 4-H project is the popular Texas County Shooting Sports program, whose participants perennially garner awards at state-level competitions against many foes with much deeper financial backing.
4-H offers its members opportunities to delve into dozens of “projects” that follow research-based outlines and curriculums. But implementation of those projects requires adult guidance, and therein lies the problem, Younger said.
“If we have kids who are interested in bicycling, then we need an adult willing to teach and train about that subject,” she said.
A book called the “4-H Clover” is published that outlines the numerous project choices, and the information is online at the 4-H web site. Texas County Extension secretary Amber Dailing said project curriculums are designed in such a way that adult leaders don’t already have to be experienced in project subjects or fields.
“They’re designed to follow along,” Dailing said. “Leaders don’t have to make anything up – it’s set up so almost anybody can do it.”
“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Younger said. “The wheel is already invented and it’s all right there for you – everything from A to Z.”
With the leadership of a single adult, the Houston club (with about 10 kids) does a lot of hiking and other outdoor-oriented activities, while the Licking bunch does other projects with leadership provided by three adults. Associated closely with an area church, the Bado club has nine adult volunteers, and its members are currently constructing robots that will attempt to negotiate a corn maze with the help of GIS (Geographical Information System) and GPS (Global Positioning System) technology.
With six adult leaders, the Shooting Sports program recently earned two big honors at state-level competitions, including an individual first-place award in trap shooting and a runner-up in team small bore rifle shooting. Dailing said that while its volunteer instructors are dedicated and passionate, the program is in need of a coordinator to manage scheduling and other ongoing paperwork and procedural matters.
Many 4-H kids raise animals, and lots of them are involved in showing and selling each year at the Texas County Fair.
Younger said the county’s Extension office will soon include a 4-H youth development specialist (hopefully by the end of this year), which, among other things should benefit of the fair’s livestock situation.
“We don’t have anything in writing at this time, but it has been announced that that position is coming here,” she said. “It’s my understanding that once that happens, the Fair Board and all that’s involved with that will be working with that person. Another one of their jobs will to be to recruit adult volunteers and create an adult volunteer base.
“The 4-H program is basically operated by volunteers. It’s been around for 100 years or more, and that’s what’s made it successful all those years.”
Younger, who took over the position of county Extension director in 2011, said 4-H is a national 501C3 non-profit organization that partners with each state’s land grant university. Its clubs must meet a requirement of six hours of meeting time per year, but most meet far more than that. Members range in age from 8 to 18, and special programs are available to kids ages 5 to 7.
“We like to say the universities are the keepers of the clover,” Younger said. “4-H teaches kids things like responsibility, integrity and honesty. It’s all about building character, and adult volunteers get to see kids develop into productive young adults.”
Younger said becoming a 4-H adult volunteer or shooting sports coordinator can begin with a phone call to the local Extension office, at 417-967-4545.
“There are pieces that come into play, like we do background checks and there is training to go through, but I think there are adults out there who would like these opportunities, but they might not be aware of them,” she said.
A 4-H motto is “learn by doing,” and part of the idea behind 4-H is exposing kids to hands-on learning experience they might not otherwise get.
“By working with youth, we’re tapping into a resource that’s available now for our community,” Dailing said. “We don’t have to wait till they’re 18, we can cash in now. But we have to be willing to work with them, and we can use 4-H to tap in on that resource that people don’t often think of as a resource.”
The 4-H program is basically operated by volunteers. It’s been around for 100 years or more, and that’s what’s made it successful all those years.”
For more information about enrolling a child or children in 4-H, or to find out about becoming an adult volunteer, stop by the University of Missouri Texas County Extension office in the Loretto House on U.S. 63 in Houston or call 417-967-4545.
For more information about 4-H in Missouri, including a comprehensive list of available programs and projects, log onto http://4h.missouri.edu/.
To view a video outlining several aspects of what current 4-H kids are accomplishing in the U.S., click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC90-fGzGuo.