It is a program that reaches nearly 6 million youth and is present in all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide. And with the assistance of 3,500 professionals and approximately 500,000 volunteers, 4-H has changed the lives of many since it was first formed in 1902.
4-H is often thought of as an agricultural program, but the truth is it is much more. It is the largest youth organization in the world, and with a wide variety of programs from which to choose, 4-H provides countless opportunities for youth to have hands-on learning opportunities and become leaders in their communities.
Present in rural, urban and suburban communities, 4-H addresses many of the issues the world is currently dealing with today including, but not limited to, global food security, climate change, sustainable energy, childhood obesity and food safety.
Not only that, but 4-H also has clubs and camps that offer many STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) opportunities that include agriculture and animal sciences as well as robotics and computer science, just to name a few.
According to Debbie Higgins, the University of Idaho Extension, Boundary County 4-H program coordinator, there were 243 students enrolled in 4-H last year. While the number of youth enrolled has dwindled since the 1980s, which Higgins said is expected, she did acknowledge that given the population of Boundary County, enrollments are going very well. There are many projects in which the youth can enroll, with some being more popular than others.
“Currently our market swine project is the largest (4-H program) in Boundary County with over 100 youth participating,” said Higgins. “Our shooting sports projects are very popular also. We have a new project we are starting also—ATV/Motorcycle.”
4-H in Boundary County is a year-round program with a lull during the months of November and December.
“Leaders Council and Livestock Committees meet monthly, some organizational clubs meet monthly, and most project meetings happen spring through summer with the fair being the finalization of their projects,” said Higgins.
With so many kids involved, there is always a need for volunteers. Currently, Boundary County 4-H has 45 volunteers, but there is always a need for more. “We are currently in need of a fishing leader,” said Higgins of the most urgent spot to fill.
Anyone ages 5 to 18, without regard to race, creed, gender, marital status, handicaps, disadvantages, economic or ethnic backgrounds, is eligible to join 4-H. For ages 5 through 7, they participate in the Cloverbuds, while 4-H participants who are 8 to 18 years of age can participate in all programs, including competitive activities and events. And for those who are over 18 with special needs, they may participate so long as they are enrolled in high school.
The primary objective of 4-H is to strengthen the mental, physical, moral and social development of youth, thereby helping them to develop into competent, committed and self-assured adults. According to the family handbook published by the University of Idaho for 4-H, the main objective of the organization is the personal development of youth through participation in projects, events and other wholesome activities. It reads in part:
4-H helps youth develop a variety of abilities they can use every day—what we refer to as ‘life skills.’ All our educational programs are designed to ensure that youth develop the confidence, competence and desirable personal characteristics to become:
• Critical thinkers
• Adaptable to change
• Organized managers
• Caring human beings
• Socially articulate
• Responsible citizens
• Connected to others in the community 4-H is intended to supplement, not replace, other learning experiences young people may have through other institutions.
The youth are recognized and rewarded for their efforts in many different ways including acceptance by peers and volunteers, ribbons, certificates, trips and scholarships.
Higgins said the fee to join the Boundary County 4-H program is a $15 membership fee for up to three projects. If one is involved in horse or ATV activities, that fee is $17, and there is a $3 charge for each project over and above the initial three that are allotted with the membership fee.
To learn more about Boundary County 4-H and its programs, contact Deborah Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208.267.3235.