How do you 4-H? Through 4-H, youth can participate in clubs, mentorship, project mastery, competitions, local, state, and international trips, and service opportunities unlike any other youth development program in the country. Along with specific skills, 4-H also works to impart life skills, or workforce readiness skills, to its youth. One of the best ways 4-H teaches leadership and responsibility to youth is by giving youth the power to choose how involved they will be and take ownership over what their experience will look like. When youth choose in fully to 4-H, the results are remarkable and inspiring. When our Senior 4-H’ers (14-18 year olds) take advantage of all that is available to them, the impact is a rewarding one. One can observe Senior aged 4-H’ers youth who are both driven to challenge themselves and who take ownership of their own success in 4-H and of their county and state program at large. One such extraordinary example is State 4-H Council Treasurer, Danielle Tinker of Escambia County, FL.
Danielle affectionately says she had to “beg” her mother to get her involved in 4-H. That kind of drive is indicative of the approach Danielle has taken in her 4-H experience overall. “One of the greatest things about 4-H is that it has given me opportunities to try so many new and different things. Some of them… I am glad to have been exposed to them and had opportunity to learn about those things…Then there are areas and events that have changed who I am and where I will end up in life.” Because Senior 4-H youth are able to define their experience, they can explore the depth of their interest area. Sometimes only by trying on various projects do youth find the field that drives them most of all. After pursuing projects like hiking, camping, drama, participating in the fair exhibits, and consumer judging competitions, Danielle got involved in leadership and livestock raising. Here Danielle found her niche. She has passionately pursued many leadership roles at the club, county, and state level and succeeded in her goal to be part of the process of improving the program and spurring others to be involved. Her love of leadership and livestock together have helped Danielle to define her goals in a way that captures both areas, saying that “Through 4-H I have discovered that I love raising livestock and I hope someday to have my own farm where I can raise and care for livestock.” Her entrepreneurial spirit, developing mastery in hog raising, and the leadership skills she has learned will translate into the lifelong values and behavioral change we see in many of our 4-H’ers that have let their experiences direct how they think of others, themselves, and their place in the world.
Being able to translate skills like leadership, responsibility, communication, resourcefulness, and being goal oriented from a specific task or project to all aspects of life is the type of behavior change positive youth development strives for. When asked about the benefits of 4-H, Danielle said,
“4-H has helped me develop skills that I can use in my future such as self confidence, public speaking and time management…Maybe most importantly through the leadership opportunities, events, and trainings that I have had in 4-H, I will never be the same. I have gained confidence, skills, and abilities that I can carry with me into whatever my future holds.”
Though all 4-H youth develop these skills, as youth age into being a Senior 4-H’er, many new opportunities become available that put them at the center of their county and state programming. Projects, leadership opportunities, and travel for this group is much more challenging and autonomous than the mentor heavy experience of younger 4-H’ers. Youth are able to meet with their peers throughout the state and nation who are delving into making what they experience in 4-H part of their lifelong vision and goals for themselves.
One of the most important skills 4-H teaches is to use your head, heart, hands, and health not only for oneself but for club, community, country, and world. Years of community service through 4-H have helped to mold Danielle into an empathetic and thoughtful young woman.
“I have learned about compassion for others through community service, and gained a passion for teaching and helping others get the most out of the opportunities afforded them through 4-H and that understanding will go with me in whatever I am passionate about as an adult.” While Danielle has pursued 4-H to the hilt, there is something to be gained through every experience.
Senior 4-H’ers can choose to be part of many incredible experiences that are exciting, rewarding, and continually challenge them in the moment as well as throughout their lives. 4-H is a program for all ages. Get on board. Contact your local county agent or look into all the incredible opportunities at the Florida 4-H website.