Making a Difference: Gary Clark
In Washington County, the name Gary Clark is synonymous with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Gary decided to start a club because he wanted to do something that would benefit the next generation of hunters, conservationists, and shooting sports enthusiasts. When asked what he most enjoys about being a 4-H volunteer, he replied “It is a way to give back to a community that has always supported me.’
Gary takes his role as a mentor and role model very seriously. “There are young people watching and listening to your every word, not so much for guidance and inspiration, but to see if you are walking the talk. Working with young people today is not so much about passing along knowledge and teaching life skills as it is about making investments in their lives. Showing the same care and concern for every youth you are working with, no matter what skill level or potential, is critical to that young person viewing themselves as successful.” Relationships with caring adult volunteers is one of the Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development that 4-H is built upon.
I believe that we all have not only an opportunity, but an obligation to help to make our communities a better place to live. I think back on the people who gave their time and resources to coach and mentor me when I was young and I am thankful for the generosity. No amount of time spent investing in the lives our youth is ever wasted!
Seeing kids succeed is what keeps Gary motivated to continue his volunteer service. “Our teams have been extremely successful, but most of that success is measured on the personal level. When you see a student achieve a new personal best or overcome an obstacle that has held them back and you see that little light go off inside their brains, you can’t help but be inspired and so proud of their achievements.” Gary also finds motivation when his 4-H Alumni return to the program as volunteers. “Two former students are also now certified coaches in the program and help out on a regular basis. Seth Pemberton is one of those youth. Seth shares, “Gary has positively impacted my life through 4-H shooting sports by making me strive for excellence, work hard, and give my best.”
Gary shares what inspires him most about being a volunteer is working with youth who would otherwise not have the opportunity to be part of a team. “Unlike so many other sports, shooting is a pretty level playing field- it isn’t only for the most athletic, the smartest, the most popular or the kid that can afford the best equipment. Every member comes into the program with an equal opportunity for success. It is all based on their commitment, focus, and [goals they set for themselves].”
Gary is very modest about his impact his club has on youth, but Julie Dillard, the Washington County Extension Director says, “Gary’s dedication to his community and his 4-H’ers is inspiring and has been the key to the success of Sure Shots 4-H Club. He encourages, praises, corrects and motivates each individual to be his or her best.”
When asked what he feels youth get out of the 4-H Shooting Sports program, he says “They learn about respect for others, commitment, teamwork, goal setting, cooperation and even how to handle disappointment [sportsmanship]. All of these traits come from being part of a program like 4-H. I do not know of any other organization that offers so many different ways for youth to be involved in their community in a structured, safe and nurturing environment that is built on the values and principles that we all hold so dear. I also believe that these skills will follow them throughout their adult lives as well.” Gary’s experience with 4-H is backed by research. The Tufts Study of Positive Youth Development found that compared to other youth, 4-H members are:
- Four times more likely to contribute to their communities
- Two times more likely to be civically active
- Two times more likely to participate in science, engineering, and technology programs during out of school time; and
- Two times more likely to make healthier choices.
Would you consider making the investment of a lifetime by becoming a 4-H volunteer? 4-H offers a variety of volunteer roles based on your interests and schedule. To find out more about being a volunteer, contact your local Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.