By Holly Martin
"You know, if every kid in the inner cities in this country belonged to 4-H, we wouldn't have much of a crime problem."
If that ain't the truth. President Bill Clinton couldn't have been more right.
I know he's right because I've seen firsthand what 4-H teaches young people. As I write this, we are in the middle of celebrating National 4-H Week. The power of that green 4-H clover is great for so many reasons.
It occupies the mind. Our children's minds are challenged in school, but the 4-H program takes learning to a whole new level. When children are given the chance to choose what they want to learn, learning is no longer a chore but exciting.
When my son was just starting 4-H, he was dinosaur crazy. He loved anything to do with fossils. We literally read every book in our small city library about dinosaurs and fossils. He signed up for the geology project and we set off on a number of geology hunts. We learned together and his love of science developed beyond anything he had experienced before.
It provides experiences. Nothing replaces experiential learning. A 4-H program gives children the hands-on participation that they never forget.
My husband recently told me about a 4-H cooking group his mom taught and forced him--and several of his teenage buddies--to take. She taught them to fry hamburger. And make chili. And cook hamburgers. And make spaghetti. Anyone want to guess what he fixes for our boys while I'm traveling? That's 25 years later and he hasn't forgotten.
It is a community. No matter where you live, the families involved in 4-H become a community of their own. Perhaps it is because we share like minds in what is important in life: citizenship, responsibility, and leadership.
A recent tragedy in our 4-H club only reinforced the feeling of a 4-H family. Young people, parents and volunteers wrapped their arms around the family and one another. We will help them get through this difficult time. And that's what this 4-H community is about. When something tragic happens, that's what you need: the power of a community to get you through.
All of those things that shape 4-H members into young people who are not only prepared for adulthood, but also have a sense of responsibility to their community. 4-H youth are three times more likely to contribute to their communities and have higher educational achievement. I'd say there can't be any better recommendation for 4-H than that.
Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.