Learn more, have fun, and make a difference through 4-H, is the cry of Lisa Holmes, Extension Agent (4-H) with the LSU AgCenter's Webster Parish Extension Service.
"September is 4-H Club enrollment month, and we are encouraging youth in grades 4-12 to join 4-H and join the fun," said Holmes.
4-H is the youth development part of Louisiana State University AgCenter's program. 4-H members choose activities they want to do based on their interests and abilities, such as raising animals and plants, preparing food, caring for pets, camping, collecting insects, outdoor skills/shooting safety, learning to sew, computer skills, and much more.
There is a 4-H club at every school in Webster parish. Each 4-H club is led by adult volunteer leaders (a teacher at the school, a parent, or other caring adult), who keeps the group organized and aware of upcoming activities.
Clubs meet during the school day once a month during the school year. In these meetings, club officers conduct the business portion, members report on activities or present demonstrations, and 4-H Agents conduct an educational program.
Some clubs have guest speakers or work on a community service projects. Each club member receives a "Webster News & Notes" newsletter, which contains details of parish events in the coming months.
To enroll in 4-H, students in Webster schools should complete an Enrollment Form and pay their club dues. Dues are a once-a-year fee set by the club or volunteer leader to cover costs of project books, insurance for events, and materials for club activities. Club leaders will have Enrollment Forms at the school in September, or students may pick one up at the Webster Parish Extension/4-H Office, located on the bottom floor of the Webster Parish Health Unit, 1202 Homer Road, Minden.
Enrollment cards ask for basic information from the student, including address, phone number, grade, date of birth, etc. Students also select a project book based on their interest.
First-time 4-H members in 4th-6th grades must select the "Discovering 4-H" project book; others can select a project they want to learn more about.
There are hundreds of project books for elementary, junior high and high school aged students to select from, in a variety of topics, including computers, public speaking, pets, electricity, theater arts, sewing, cooking/nutrition, environment, pets, livestock, photography, and many more.
This year, 7th -12th grade clubs in each town or community are challenged to complete a "Service-Learning" project, where they will survey the needs of their own community, develop a service project to address one or more of those needs, and have an "action plan" to complete the project.
Service Learning is designed to help 4-H members to be more involved in supporting their own communities while developing leadership and teamwork skills.
Going to club meetigs is not all a 4-H member has to do. There are parish, district, state and national events and activities for youth enrolled in 4-H. Parish activities include cookery contests, talent shows, pet shows, livestock competitions, poster contests, shooting sports, community service activities, 4-H Fun Day, bicycle rodeo, and Awards Night.
District events are cookery contests, state fair events, Summer Camp for 4th-6th graders, Challenge Camp for 7th-8th graders, horse shows, etc. State opportunities include Junior Leadership Conference, 4-H University/Short Course, Citizenship Louisiana Focus, Wild Woods Wanderings and Marsh Maneuvers, and more.
National events are Citizenship Washington Focus, 4-H Congress, livestock shows and awards trips. 4-H members will be made aware of these opportunities throughout the year.
Adults can become involved in 4-H as well. Clubs need volunteers to assist with club programs and activities. 4-H members can form "project groups" and adults can work with a small group of youth who are working on the same project book. At this time, adults who are actively working with specific projects are in the areas of livestock, gardening, photography, Celebrate Girls and shooting sports, but there are many more project groups that can be formed.
Collaboration with other organizations is also important to 4-H's success. For example, the Webster Homemakers' Council supports 4-H by serving as judges for contests, providing 4-H camp sponsorships, donating items for community service projects, making quilts for Outstanding Senior 4-H members at Awards Night and more.
Webster Master Gardeners serve as mentors for youth in the 4-H gardening project and present educational programs for both youth and adults at 4-H events. And the 4-H program is greatly supported by the Webster Parish School Board and the Webster Parish Police Jury.