On January 30, Tallahassee will be a sea of green as Florida 4-H members from across the state flood the capitol wearing their green blazers and polo shirts. 4-H Day at the Capitol is a highly anticipated event among 4-H’ers, worth getting up before dawn and driving hundreds of miles to tour the capitol, learn about its history, meet their elected officials and get a first-hand look at how state government works.
For many, this trip is just the beginning: In June, 4-H members will return to the Capitol building to draft, debate and vote on mock bills as part of the 4-H Legislature program. Some will even be doing it for real someday, as lobbyists, advisors and lawmakers. It’s the 4-H “learn-by-doing” principle at work—giving young people the research-based tools they need and allowing them the freedom to use them in hands-on learning experiences, all under the guidance of highly trained and caring volunteers.
At the same time, the state’s lawmakers will learn about Florida 4-H and its impact on participating youth. Ask any green-clad visitor to Tallahassee this week, and they’ll tell you there’s a lot you should know about Florida 4-H:
4-H is a Florida institution. Florida 4-H has been the youth development program of the University of Florida IFAS Extension for more than 100 years. It receives funding from the state legislature to help fulfill the university’s land-grant mission of sharing vital research and education with the people of Florida.
4-H is huge. More than 200,000 youth ages 5-18 are involved in Florida 4-H through local clubs, 4-H camps and school enrichment programs across the state.
4-H is on the cutting edge. Participants engage in more than 50 hands-on learning projects that involve science, engineering and technology; healthy living; and citizenship and leadership. You can expect a 4-H member to be able to speak authoritatively about everything from programming a robot to why a calf is underweight.
4-H is diverse. 4-H’ers come from diverse backgrounds and from urban and rural parts of the state. Sixty-seven percent are in elementary school, and membership has an equal balance of boys and girls.
4-H is the future. 4-H participants get better grades, have higher levels of engagement in school, and are two times more likely to plan to go to college to pursue a degree in science, engineering or computer technology than their peers.
4-H is committed to higher ideals. Ask any 4-H member what the four H’s stand for, and they’ll tell you: “I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living. For my club, my community, my county and my world.”
4-H has passionate supporters. Each year, UF/IFAS Extension trains more than 13,000 adult and youth volunteers who offer over 725,000 hours of their time to provide an educational, safe and supportive environment for 4-H members. Many of our state’s agricultural producers and community leaders are lifelong 4-H boosters, and support the program by offering their knowledge, their time and generous gifts and donations.
4-H is determined to do more. This year, UF/IFAS Extension is requesting additional funding from the state legislature to expand Florida 4-H’s programs in environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture. This request will also allow us to expand programming and facilities at nature-based learning labs at three 4-H Education Centers throughout the state: Camp Timpoochee in Niceville, Camp Cherry Lake in Madison and Camp Cloverleaf in Lake Placid. Thousands of Floridians have fond memories of summer programs at our 4-H residential camps, but these aging facilities require investments to modernize, upgrade and repair in order to meet the needs of today’s youth and accommodate new programs.
When you see a green wave of young citizens at the capitol, you’re getting a glimpse into a brighter future for our state. Florida 4-H gives youth the experience they need to succeed in life and be responsible, productive citizens. The 4-H’ers you meet in Tallahassee today will be the problem solvers, the innovators and the lawmakers of tomorrow. To me, seeing these outstanding future leaders represents a true sense of hope for the future of our society.
To learn more about Florida 4-H, visit http://florida4h.org