Celebrating National 4-H Week
National 4-H week will take place the second week of October (October 7–13).
National 4-H week is a time to honor and thank everything the program has to offer to the thousands who go through the program every year.
During 2010, according to Statistical Report produced by The Ohio State University Extension, 317,286 youth participated in the Ohio 4-H program, with the help of 20,949 adult volunteers guiding youth along the way.
What exactly is 4-H?
4-H is a youth development and leadership program, in which The Ohio State University Extension and their staff oversea, providing materials and guidelines to the 88 different counties in Ohio. 4-H has been defined as a community of young people across American who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills.
Having been through the 4-H program and now an adult volunteer, I have been able to experience first-hand how beneficial 4-H can be to a person.
I often get asked two questions: why did you join 4-H in the first place?…Why do you continue to with it?
Why did I join 4-H?
Good question. I do not really know why. I remember when I was in third grade I attended an assembly at school and listened to the speaker talk about what 4-H was, and all the things you could do. As most who know me are aware, I have had rabbits for a very long time. I remember finding out you could show rabbits and that is what I think drew me into it.
I of course, only being 8 at the time, had to ask my mom if I could join 4-H, which took a lot of convincing. But she let me. Which to this day I like to remind her of, because she herself became a part of the program a few years after I did, and just celebrated her 15th year as a 4-H advisor. And to think — if she would have said no….she would not have been able to do so.
Why do I continue
Well I just completed my 18th year with the Preble County 4-H program, 11 years as a member and seven as an advisor. It is really hard to believe that I have been around the program that long, but this is one thing I would not change for the world.
I keep doing 4-H because, if it was not for 4-H, there is no way I would have been able to experience what I have. The impact it has made on myself and others around me is why I have stayed with it.
Being a 4-H advisor, I have been able to make a difference in someone. One of my 4-H’ers and I spent basically all summer together working on her projects. I got to see first-hand how much impact one can have on someone’s life.
While I was in 4-H, I was most known for my sewing projects, more so than rabbits. Throughout the 6 years I did sewing, I did eight different projects. I walked away with four State Fair Representative awards, a Kroger Outstanding of the Day trophy, and a few other honors.
This year was the first year I was able to put my sewing skills back into 4-H. My 4-H’er and I tackled a sundress for her first sewing project. It was so great to watch her learn exactly how clothing is put together. I’ll never forget her asking me, “We need this many pieces for a dress?”
During the fair this year, I was able to meet the rest of another 4-H’er’s’ family. This one in particular was a rabbit girl, and it was her first year showing them. She had won her showmanship age group and her dad come up to me and thanked me for all the hard work I have done, and how much he appreciated what I and the other advisors in the club, have done for his daughter.
…..Those two stories are why I keep doing what I do.
What did 4-H do for me?
Those who know me know I am not exactly a social butterfly.
Through 4-H, I was able to overcome my fear of speaking in front of people, although it took a while. It was not until I hit high school that I was able to do so. When I became a camp counselor and a member of the Junior Fair Board and Food and Fashion Board, I learned it. I am actually one of two people in Preble County to win at State Fair in the public speaking contest last.
Being able to speak publicly is not something you are born with, nor is it something one would learn overnight. When I first had to learn, it freaked me out, but thankfully, I took the opportunity to learn. In the career that I chose, talking to people is important.
A few weeks back, my youngest sister Rachel and I were talking about the different things we have learned from 4-H that we have both been able to apply to our lives post-4-H. Many things came up, such as responsibility, leadership, time management, and patience.
4-H does something different for everyone.
For me, I think the biggest thing I have been able to take away, besides public speaking, is more of a motto that one of my co-advisors, Amanda, and I have tried to instill in our kids’ minds: 4-H is one of those things where your success depends on my how much work you are willing to put into it. You do not do well by winging it – you do well by putting in the time and energy to learn your animals or your project. It is not an overnight thing, it takes years to get to where you want to be.
So in honor of National 4-H week – if you’re a current or past member of 4-H, sit down and think about what 4-H has done for you and/or what you want to get out of it.
Ashley Fritz is the lead desiger of ACRES of Western Ohio. She is also a former 4-H member and current 4-H advisor in Preble County.