By: Kevin Tatum, County Extension Coordinator
This will be my 34th and last year celebrating National-Georgia 4-H Week as the County Extension Agent for 4-H Youth in Coffee County. I have had a great career working with youth in Coffee County, but what has a beginning must always have an end. My retirement date is set for the end of November, leaving me just two more months in this position. I have enjoyed being able to assist youth in the discovery of their unique abilities, whether it is leadership, service, public speaking, organizing, or just being a good friend to another 4-H member.
At my age, it is sometimes easier to remember some of the first students I had in 4-H 34 years ago than the hundreds of kids we see each year these days. Did you know that our staff sees on average over 1,400 students during a school year through the 4-H program? Our staff goes into every fifth and sixth grade classroom in the county offering educational programs as well as many after-school opportunities for youth.
Well, back to the story at hand. 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 3-10. Currently, there are approximately 1,200 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 57 different club meetings. Public and private school students in fifth and sixth grade are met in school. Seventh through twelfth graders have meetings after school at the 4-H office. Home schooled students in fourth through twelfth grades are offered 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 local assisted living centers when COVID-19 is not around, Adopt-A-Highway workdays, and collecting drink can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, helping with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive 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 33 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, conferences, 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 over the years. 4-H Program Assistants Lynn Adams, Liz Batten, Alyse Hall, Beth Hersey, Terri Taylor, Lillie Smith, Misty Tanner, Charnita Williams, and Chalanda Woods, as well as secretary Lisa Craigue, have been wonderful at working with our 4-H members. In the last eight years, Coffee County has been one of the top ten counties in the state with the highest participation in District Project Achievement out of all 159 counties in the state of Georgia. This is a magnificent feat considering how much time and effort it takes to get each child ready for DPA. Our staff has been 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.
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.
STATE GOAT AND LAMB SHOW
The State 4-H/FFA Goat and Lamb Show will be held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds on October 7-10. Goat showmanship classes will be held on Friday, October 8, with the wether show immediately following. Does will be shown on Saturday, October 9. Lamb showmanship will be held on Saturday, October 9 with wethers and ewes being shown on Sunday, October 10. If you are in Perry for the fair, please stop by the livestock arena and support the members participating.
4-H participants include: Hayden Gay, Hollyn Gay, Kyleigh Gay, McKenzie Gay, Leo McIver, and Blakely Williams.
CLOVERS & CO. TO PERFORM
Each year Georgia 4-H’s renowned performing group, Clovers & Co., performs at the Georgia National Fair. We are proud to have Austin Strickland as a member of Clovers & Co. this year as a percussionist. This year’s performance will take place on Sunday, October 17. Show times are: 12:30, 2:00, and 3:00 PM. The performances will take place on the Reaves Arena Stage. Stop by support Austin and this great group of young performers as they represent Georgia 4-H.
JUNIOR 4-H CONFERENCE
Let’s get together for an awesome weekend at Rock Eagle 4-H Center where you will be having loads of fun with friends from all over the state of Georgia. You will meet new friends, do service projects, participate in workshops and an exhibit fair, have a dance, and see Clovers & Company perform. The conference will be held on November 20-21 at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center and will cost around $110. A 4-H Medical Information Release Form and Code of Conduct form must be turned in at registration.
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.