“One in four West Virginia youths in third grade through high school participate in a 4-H program,” said Debbie McDonald, director of West Virginia 4-H Youth Development programs. “When you have that level of participation in a state, it shows you that this program continues to be interesting and relevant to today’s youths.”
4-H is a free, youth development program open to anyone between the ages of 9 and 21. In many areas, children as young as 5 are able to join a pre-4-H program called “Cloverbuds”. At the other end of the spectrum, there are active collegiate 4-H clubs at seven West Virginia colleges and universities.
The program focuses on Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The overall goals are to develop life and leadership skills; build self-esteem and character; foster citizenship and service; and teach healthy habits.
“What helps make our program unique is that everyone is welcome,” McDonald said. “There is no academic or financial requirement to join 4-H. Joining can be as simple as contacting your local WVU Extension Service office.”
West Virginia 4-H programs exist in all 55 counties and are operated by WVU Extension Service. The program manifests itself in a number of ways, such as camps, clubs, school enrichment programs and teams.
Recent findings from Tufts University’s “4-H Study of Positive Youth Development” indicate that young people in 4-H are three times more likely to contribute to their communities than youth not participating in 4-H. Notably, Tufts’ research discovered that the structured learning, encouragement and adult mentoring that 4-H’ers receive play a vital role in helping them actively contribute to their communities.
For more than a century, 4-H has focused on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship and natural sciences. Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities also exist in subjects like rocketry, robotics, bio-fuels, renewable energy and computer science. Programs are also available in leadership training, fine arts, nutrition and fitness and many more topics of interest to young people.
To learn more about new opportunities in the 4-H program, visit www.ext.wvu.edu, or contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service.
CONTACT: Ann Bailey Berry, WVU Extension Service
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