4-H reaching out to educatePublished 10:34pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The national 4-H program, “making the best better” in Michigan since 1902, raises pigs, cans food and teaches sewing.
But that fun stuff is a smokescreen for its hidden agenda, positive youth development, beyond the four-leaf clover cover of head, heart, hands and health.
Participants, who must enroll by Jan. 1 each year, learn responsibility, dedication, teamwork, public speaking, record keeping, interviewing, resume preparation and entrepreneurialism for an annual $10 enrollment fee.
Studies show Michigan youth 4-H participants are less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs and more likely to enjoy higher levels of academic competence, attend college programs and be more physically active.
“A lot of people in the community still don’t know what 4-H is or have the misconception you have to live on a farm; 4-H is for city kids and suburb kids. Life has gotten a lot harder with the economy since I got out of college. You need to be on top of your game in the job market. If we as a county won’t give our youths the skills they need, we’re not reinvesting in our community. Ten or 15 years from now these children will be our leaders taking care of me when I’m old,” said Stephanie Timm Smith, who became Cass County’s 4-H instructor just in time for the fair last summer.
Her office is in the 1899 courthouse in Cassopolis.
The Niles native attended Southwestern Michigan College and Andrews University in Berrien Springs. “I was a lifelong 4-Her, one of those kids, had they not had an age limit, who’d still be in it at almost 30 years old. I loved it that much. I love working for Michigan State University Extension.”
Smith, who gave sample soybean snack packs to Dowagiac Rotarians recently, is tabulating a March Reading Month challenge for which youths read more than 24,000 pages.
“You think you’ve got a skill set to share with the children,” Smith said, “but in the end you learn from them. Not every child comes from a two-parent home or may not have ideal situations. Adult volunteers give positive role models and time to interact.”
The office is processing almost 50 new volunteer applications.
Sometimes she makes like David Letterman with the science experiment “Sinkers and Floaters,” predicting where grapes, carrots and cheese come to rest in a water bowl, such as at the parks department’s Night of 5,000 Easter Eggs.
For the holidays 4-Hers made 240 cards for the troops.
The first Trunk or Treat at the fairgrounds furnished Smith a fifth H — help! — when 1,000 came, including out of state, with 200 expected.
The annual Cass County 4-H Leaders’ Association Senior and Leader Awards Program takes place April 30 at Ross Beatty High School, 22721 Diamond Cove Rd., Cassopolis.
After a dessert reception at 6 p.m., graduating seniors, county medal recipients and 4-H leaders are honored with a short program at 7.
College award winners will also be announced, according to President Gordon Ridenour.
The evening ends with announcement of this year’s outstanding leaders.
Cass County’s 26 4-H clubs involve 700 youths ages 5 to 19 and 230 adult volunteers.
4 Kids 4-H Club
North Red Hill
Cowboy Up Club
Jones Rough Riders
Triple C Horse Club
Rocky River Riders