By Kevin Tatum
NATIONAL 4-H WEEK
Each year, 4-H members, volunteer leaders, and Extension staff members celebrate National 4-H Week during the first full week of October. This year, 4-H Week is October 1st – 7th. Currently, there are approximately 1,210 4-H members in Coffee County. These 4-H members can participate in events such as Project Achievement, livestock shows, judging events, target sports, community service activities, and much more.
4-H is open to students in grades 4 through 12. In Coffee County, we offer 4-H to public school, private school, and home schooled students through 53 different club meetings. Public school students in fifth and sixth grade are met in school. Seventh through twelfth graders have meetings after school at the 4-H office. Citizens Christian Academy students in fifth through eighth grades are met in school. First Academy students in fifth through seventh grades are met in school. Home schooled students in fourth through twelfth grades hold their monthly meetings at the 4-H office.
4-H staff members encourage all of our members to take part in District Project Achievement (DPA). By participating in DPA, a student will select a project, prepare a presentation on that project, and present it before their peers at an area or district competition. Cloverleaf 4-H members compete on a Saturday, usually in November. Seventh through twelfth graders must also prepare a portfolio in the form of a resume’ on their project work in order to compete in DPA. Their competition is held at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in late January or early February.
We also encourage our members to take part in community service projects like Pet Therapy Visitation at Shady Acres and Manor House, Adopt-A-Highway workdays, and collecting drink can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, just to name a few.
Parents are encouraged to take part in 4-H, too, as volunteer leaders. However, volunteers must complete the Georgia 4-H screening requirements and the Certified Chaperon Training before they can help out. This is done by completing a 4-H Volunteer Leader Application and Agreement form. Once you are approved from the UGA background check, you must complete the training course and then you will be ready to go.
From my beginnings as a 4-H member many years ago, to serving Coffee County as County Extension Agent for 4-H for the past 29 years, I have many fond memories of 4-H. I have met many wonderful people who love giving of their time to help young people. We have had so many wonderful volunteers and parents during my tenure in Coffee County, in fact too many to name. However, these folks have spent many days and nights going to competitions, camps, conference, and events with students so that they could learn and experience new things, see new places, and meet new people. Most of them are willing to give you the shirt off of their back to help you out when needed.
I also have to comment on the wonderful staff that we have working with our 4-H members. Program Assistants Liz Batten and Alyse Hall, AmeriCorps Member Chalanda Woods, Secretary Lisa Craigue, and Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Jeremy Taylor are wonderful at working with our 4-H members. Last year, Coffee County had the fifth highest participation in District Project Achievement out of all 159 counties in the state of Georgia with 115 students participating. This is a magnificent feat considering how much time and effort it takes to get each child ready for DPA. Our staff is wonderful.
I have also experienced many new opportunities with these students myself. 4-H exchange trips to other states (Wisconsin and Colorado) and even Puerto Rico, 4-H conference in Washington, DC, and a 4-H leadership conference in Tennessee, to name a few. Just a couple of weeks ago, senior 4-H members at the Southern Region Teen Leadership Conference in Crossville, TN, were asked to donate money to purchase items for foster children. They not only raised over $2,000, but all 400 4-H members were transported to the local Walmart store where they shopped for items for these foster children. They then took the items back to camp and packed them in drawstring bags for the children. Two young men even bought a small bicycle using their own money. It was a very moving experience to see these kids doing this project for foster children they have never met.
Some of the activities in 4-H have changed since its inception in 1904, but the principles of “Making the Best Better” have and will always be at the core of 4-H educational efforts. Students may not be planting corn crops like the original Boys Corn Club, but they are still learning valuable lessons that will help make them better informed and contributing members of society.
If you would like to learn how you can become more involved with the Coffee County 4-H program, please contact the Coffee County Extension office at (912) 384-1402 or visit our website at http://coffee4h.org.