COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of the proudest moments of his tenure with Ohio 4-H was when Tom Archer opened a note from a 4-H alumna. He remembered her as a teen 4-H camp counselor who became president of both the 4-H Junior Leadership Club and the County Junior Fair Board in Shelby County, where Archer started his career.
“About 10 years after she graduated, she sent me a note saying that while she was in those 4-H roles, she was often frustrated that I did not answer more of her questions, make decisions for her or solve some of her leadership-related problems,” said Archer, state leader of Ohio 4-H, the youth development arm of Ohio State University Extension. “She had to do it by herself, or with her peers.
“But she went on to say how grateful she was 10 years later when she realized 4-H provided the opportunity for her to learn how to make decisions and solve problems on her own, which she used daily in her work as a human resource manager in a small company.
“That was probably the highlight of my year,” he said.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
As Archer celebrates Ohio 4-H Week, March 8-14, he recalls stories like this one that show the impact that the nation’s largest youth development and mentoring organization has on the 6 million young people who participate.
In 2014, more than 216,000 young Ohioans participated in traditional 4-H clubs, camps and school enrichment programs, as well as in other Extension youth groups and educational activities, and nearly 18,000 Ohioans volunteered with Ohio 4-H.
The organization chooses this time of year to celebrate Ohio 4-H Week because spring is a time when many young people become members or begin new projects in 4-H clubs, Archer said. The week culminates with the Ohio 4-H Conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. More than 1,500 teens and adult volunteers are expected to attend.
Membership in the 4-H club program is open to youths who are at least age 8 as of Jan. 1 and in the third grade until Dec. 31 of the year they reach age 19. Younger children are eligible to participate in Cloverbuds, a non-competitive program for youths who are age 5 or older and in kindergarten until they reach age 8 and are in third grade.
But Ohio 4-H goes beyond the traditional club model, Archer said. Its camps, after-school programs, school enrichment programs and special STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities are in high demand with 4-H partners in communities throughout the state.
Archer said he believes he knows why Ohio 4-H is so successful:
- All 4-H educational programs are research-based. “We have excellent curriculum materials that have been created and reviewed by experts in the subject matter fields,” Archer said. “They are age-appropriate and have been developed to fit within existing educational standards.”
- Through OSU Extension, Ohio 4-H has “the power and resources to respond to any question through the land-grant system of universities,” Archer said. That network is available to anyone through 4-H programs housed in every Ohio county.
- All adult leaders of after-school programs, whether they are paid staff or volunteers, must pass a rigorous screening to ensure that they can provide a safe learning environment with appropriate subject matter expertise.
- School enrichment programs, such as Rockets Away! and ChickQuest, as well as out-of-school 4-H programming that isn’t related to 4-H clubs, provide young people high-quality hands-on learning experiences that spark interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
- Young people participating in Ohio 4-H clubs can choose from more than 200 individual and group projects or get assistance in designing their own project if they have a special interest. Details for 2015 are in Ohio 4-H’s 2015 Family Guide.
To learn more about Ohio 4-H, see the organization’s website at ohio4H.org.