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Today's youths have a huge variety of extracurricular activities from which they can choose to spend their spare time. From sports, music, dance, gymnastics and swimming to baseball, softball and even soccer, all these things keep many young people busy every day. In the midst of all the events that take up a kid's time, consider another organization in the county that is kid oriented, lots of fun and a great educational opportunity for all.

Nationally, 4-H was founded in 1902. It has grown to become the nation's largest youth development organization. It helps young people and their families gain skills to be proactive forces in their communities. It has opened the door for young people to learn leadership skills and explore ways to give back.

The 4-H organization is an exciting youth program where kids get to "learn by doing." It is about having fun while learning, exploring and discovering new things. In 4-H, young people make new friends, develop new skills, become leaders and help shape their towns and cities.

Through a community of 100 public universities, 4-H reaches kids in every corner of America -- from urban neighborhoods to suburban schoolyards to rural farming communities. Its reach and depth is unmatched. A network of 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 4-H professionals provides caring and supportive mentoring to 6 million 4-H'ers, helping them grow into true leaders. More than 807 clubs have been established across Arkansas alone. Kids can be part of 4-H wherever they live. Youths between the ages of 5 and 19 are welcome to join the 133,000 young people involved in the Arkansas 4-H program.

So how and why did 4-H start in the first place? A.B. Graham started one of the youth programs in Clark County, Ohio, which is also considered one of the births of the 4-H program in the United States. During this time, researchers at experiment stations of the land-grant college system and USDA saw that adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural discoveries. However, educators found that youths could "experiment" with these new ideas and then share their experiences and successes with the adults. As a result, rural youth programs became a way to introduce new agricultural technology to adults. The passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA and nationalized 4-H.

The 4-H youth development in Arkansas is more than a 100-year-old tradition. In October 1908, a group of about 65 boys formed the first 4-H club in Arkansas -- the White County Corn and Cotton Club. In Garland County, 4-H banquet programs date back to 1951 and a scrapbook of a county 4-H member dates back to 1942. This means 4-H has been in effect in Garland County for at least 75 years.

Why join 4-H? The mission of 4-H is to provide opportunities for youths to acquire knowledge, develop life skills, form attitudes and practice behavior that will enable them to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society. In today's society, we have a lot more "takers" than we have "givers." Who better to guide today's kids into a mentality of "what can I give to my community" than 4-H? Not only will kids gain tools to help them be useful to their community, they can have fun, meet new friends and choose from over a hundred projects to explore.

The activities 4-H'ers enjoy may have changed in the last 100-plus years, but the mission to help youths learn to be productive citizens hasn't changed. It is the only informal education program with a direct connection to the University of Arkansas. The 4-H program is science based and designed to shape future leaders and innovators. Best of all, kids can join for free!

Wouldn't you like to think that your child might pledge "my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world"?

4-H Club

For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, call Linda Bates at the Garland County Cooperative Extension office, 236 Woodbine, 623-6841; or email lbates@uaex.edu. Additional information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.

Master Gardener

Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at Lake Valley Community Church. They're open to the public. For information, call the Extension Office or email Allen Bates at abates@uaex.edu.

EHC

Interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? For information, call Jessica Vincent at 623-6841 or email jvincent@uaex.edu.

Society on 12/11/2017

Print Headline: 4-H: Standing the test of time

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