St. Charles Herald-Guide

State leaders invite students to find their niche in a local 4-H organization

LSU AgCenter News - August 15, 2007

More than 179,000 youth in Louisiana have found a home in 4-H. The new school year offers the opportunity for students to join 4-H clubs where they can interact with others who have common interests, according to LSU AgCenter director of the 4-H Youth Program Dr. Mark Tassin.

Once considered an organization primarily for rural and farm youngsters, 4-H for many years has offered a wider range of projects, including aerospace, communications, computers, the environment, electrical energy, horticulture, entomology (insects), photography and vet science, plus others.

The Louisiana 4-H program also is one of the leaders in the country in the character education program.

Some 1,517 clubs are active across the state, including the densely populated urban areas. Character development is conducted in all 64 parishes.

Besides offering educational opportunities, Tassin said 4-H helps youth develop life skills that are important for success in school, in personal relations and later in earning a living.

These skills include self-esteem, communicating, commitment to others, problem solving, decision making, getting and using information, managing resources and working with others.

Enrollment is available for those in the 4th through 12th grade, with the program tailored to two broad groups – grades 4-6 and 7-12. In turn, each grade level has its own focus, ranging from working with others in the 4th grade to independent living in the 12th. Once enrolled, a member becomes part of a club.

"A 4-H Club is a group of young people who want to use their heads, hearts, hands and health to become the best they can be and to become positive, capable and compassionate members of their communities," Tassin said, referring to the H’s in 4-H.

Every 4-H member has the opportunity to select a project or subject to learn. Each project has its own project book that guides the 4-H’er through the topic.

Completing a project means doing the activities in the book and participating in parish workshops and regional and state programs and activities.

4-H’ers can select projects from three major areas – science, engineering and technology; healthy lifestyles; or citizenship.

"Many 4-H’ers like to learn more about a subject, so they join a project group," Tassin said, adding, "They become more focused in one topic area and are able to participate in challenging project specific activities."

Volunteer leaders meet with the groups to guide them through hands-on activities. Meetings are held in homes, schools and public locales.

"‘Learn by doing’ is the 4-H club slogan," Tassin pointed out, explaining, "4-H members are exposed to projects that allow them to experience hands-on activities."

He said they make things, they take part in club meetings, they learn interesting new ideas, they learn to follow, and they learn to lead. 4-H’ers also help their neighbors and their neighborhoods through service activities.

Each club has its own officers with adult support from volunteer leaders and LSU AgCenter extension agents. A leader may be anyone interested in working with young people.

Organizational leaders supervise clubs, and project leaders help 4-H’ers complete project activities. Parents are encouraged to participate.

Older 4-H’ers also may be eligible to become junior or teen leaders.

They join special clubs where they develop even stronger leadership skills and do service projects.

Special awards are available for those who teach others and perform community service.

Tassin said 4-H is the most popular youth organization in the United States with more than 7 million members.

He recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about the program.

For additional information, click on the 4-H clover at the AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.