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Move over summer camps, fall youth programs are here!

Parents, now that summer is over, it is time to explore youth development organizations for your child again.  Now, I can tell you about 4-H Youth Development, and I will before I finish, but what other options are out there, and how do you start… Google search, other parents, school bulletin boards? Those are all good places to start looking, but first, you should talk with your child, see what they are interested in and then review your household schedule. There is nothing more frustrating than signing your child up for something only to realize they are not interested, or frankly you don’t have time to fit it in your schedule.

When researching youth development organizations, as parents we have an obligation to ask questions.  After all, the people working with these organizations will be interacting with and influencing your child.  Find out what their mission and objectives are; what are they teaching; who is doing the teaching; and how are those individuals screened and monitored?  In addition, you should ask questions about what your role and responsibilities are as the parent of a child participating.  Some youth organizations are not comfortable with parents just dropping off their child and leaving.  A big question I ask is can we “try it on”, meaning, before we commit can we come and visit a couple of times, participate and meet people?  If they say no, then I question why because not every program fits every child.

Let me go back to 4-H. Our new year started September 1st, and our clubs are open and ready for returning members 5-18 years old as well as, new members. We are lucky in Clay County that we currently have 25 clubs for families to choose from and they vary from animal-specific clubs, STEM clubs, and general interest clubs. We are also blessed to have amazing volunteers to help us educate and mentor our young members. Our volunteers go through background screenings and we meet with them quarterly to provide educational opportunities for them to be all they can be for our youth. Moreover, we talk with our volunteers continually in order to understand what they are experiencing as well as, what they have planned. In addition to our clubs, we provide workshops and educational opportunities that are not only open to our 4-H members, but most are open to all youth in the community. We have a clear mission and we work to create safe environments for children to learn and grow.  We are proud of our 4-H program, members and volunteers, and we are always excited to welcome new families.

That being said, I am not here to tell you one youth development organization is better than another, but rather I’m suggesting doing some homework to ensure you choose the best fit for your child.