For all the might of its $17 billion annual contribution to the Florida economy, I believe the most lasting and far-reaching impact of the University of Florida may be through our 4-H program and the millions of current and former 4-Hers who reside in Florida.
4-H trains youth for success later in life. Skills in citizenship, public speaking, organization, and respect are all part of the learned culture of 4-H. These youth become our leaders, our role models and an important part of the state’s economy since they have been repeatedly shown to achieve far above average. Strong state programs in 4-H are a core strength of any prosperous economy.
Take Tucker Padgett, for example, a 4-Her in Escambia County. In her first year raising animals, Tucker earned $4,860 in premiums at fairs and shows—as a fifth-grader. She reinvested in a beef heifer, learned about artificial insemination and successfully bred two more. That’s an entrepreneur on her way to becoming a lifelong contributor to her community.
Florida 4-H currently has approximately 200,000 youth across all delivery modes; more than 15,000 of them are in our strong community club programs. Every county has a program. It also gives children unforgettable experiences at three 4-H residential camps in different corners of Florida. Florida 4-H programming provides opportunities for youth to immerse themselves in projects such as raising livestock, horticulture, leadership, robotics and more. The goal is to help youth on a path to success in life and in their careers. To meet the diverse needs of youth and parents, the 4-H program is available in communities, in schools, in afterschool programs and even online.
On National 4-H week, I want to publicly thank leaders of 4-H, whether they are on our staff or volunteers or 4-H Hall of Famers like the five new inductees we’ll celebrate on Tuesday. They know in their hearts that they are touching the future–making the best better by the work that they do. My thanks to them for making the future better. And I want to thank the parents, family and friends who make sure young people know about these programs and help facilitate their participation.
To our 4-H members–you are given a great gift by the citizens of Florida. Whether it’s through taxpayer funds for programming or volunteers like your club leaders and mentors, the clubs and programs you are a part of will change your life forever and give you the gift of skills that we so much need in our society.
Once you take charge of the economy of Florida, you will find that adults have left you many challenges. But we know you will be ready to assume your role as leaders because of that gift that all of Florida has shared with you.
I will personally be involved with 4-H whether as a donor or as a judge in the chocolate cake contest. It takes an entire community to build success. 4-H is supported by county, state and federal governments, the National 4-H Board and countless volunteers throughout Florida. 4-H truly puts the word ‘cooperative” in Cooperative Extension. I feel good about Florida’s future because of future leaders that are being trained today.