The 4-H youth development program gets many different reactions from people.
For me, 4-H gave an opportunity to try new things and learn new skills. It was also very social, supporting work with other like-minded youth. From 4-H, I learned how to speak in front of people, organize my thoughts and show new skills to others through demonstrations; present a project to a judge and talk about what I learned in making the project, or what I learned from mistakes.
All these skills helped me be successful in college and present myself well in job interviews, and prepared me to be successful in my career.
Now as a parent, I enjoy seeing my son learn those same skills and more. Over time, the 4-H program has evolved to offer many more projects for youth. Who knew 100 years ago that 4-H members could learn about rockets and robots along with quilts and critters, or even sport fishing and cowboy poetry?
At the head of the 4-H program are 40 different project areas for youth to choose from.
The broad topics are animal science, engineering and technology, environment and natural science, family and consumer sciences, plant sciences, communications, expressive arts, leadership, personal development and health.
The heart of the program comes from volunteer leaders, parents and community members who share a skill, donate time and resources, and otherwise help youth learn. The focus is to help youth become blue ribbon people who learn new ideas and skills, and give back to their community through service projects or other related activities.
Through this process, youth involved in the 4-H program may also earn a blue ribbon for their project work or even be best of show at the Marias Fair.
The many hands of sponsors, volunteers, youth and parents are what make the program succeed in all the ways it reaches out: teaching youth a new skill, holding a food drive, mentoring a child or helping with community needs.
The fourth H, health, recognizes 4-H’s commitment to the physical, mental and emotional health of our youth so they may lead healthy and productive lives. The 4-H program is a national leader in health-related educational issues.
In Pondera County, Project Clubs existed as early as the 1920s, but the Pondera 4-H Leaders Council was not officially chartered until 1950. Clubs and projects have evolved through the years, but the concepts of hands-on learning, youth leadership, character, and service learning remain cornerstones of the program.
Beef and horse projects were the top choices in the early years of Pondera County 4-H. Swine, shooting sports and horse projects are the most popular in Pondera County in 2012.
Over the past year, the Montana 4-H Centennial has been celebrated throughout the state. During that time many positive things have happened. The new 4-H year is starting and taking us forward to the next 100 years.
I hope you may recognize and appreciate the rich and proud Montana 4-H heritage whether you were a 4-H member, leader, parent, volunteer, donor, sponsor, or supporter, and especially if you benefitted from 4-H volunteer efforts.
National 4-H Week continues to be celebrated Oct. 7 - 13. For any youth aged 6-18, the new enrollment year has begun. Please contact the Pondera County Extension office at 271-4054 or visit our office at the Courthouse for more information on the program. Youth aged 6-8 may enroll as a Cloverbud and youth 9 to 18 years old may enroll as 4-H members and we welcome them to explore the possibilities of more than 40 different projects.
Editor’s note: Wendy Wedum is a new Extension agent and can be reached at the courthouse at the number listed in the story.