These days 4-H is more than youth judging poultry, it teaches children and teens life lessons, such as developing public speaking and decision making skills and giving back through community service.
There are more than 1,000 4-H’ers in Liberty County, and more than 184,000 across the state, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said Tuesday, before signing a proclamation proclaiming Oct. 6-12 National 4-H Week.
The program was established in Georgia 109 years ago. Georgia’s 4-H is operated by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. The youth development program began as a Boys Corn Club and a Girls Tomato Canning Club, according to the Liberty County 4-H website at caes.uga.edu. Today, 4-H teaches computer skills, recycling, photography, nutrition, violence prevention and teamwork.
The local 4-H office is always busy, according to Kasey Bozeman, 4-H agent for Liberty County. 4-H partners with the Liberty County schools to serve 750 students in nine schools, Bozeman said. The agent said she facilitates 36 in-school meetings a month and middle and high school students often meet at her office in the old courthouse for after-school activities and to prepare for competitions. In addition, Liberty County 4-H took more than 65 children to summer camp at Wahsega 4-H Center in Dahlonega last year, and plans to offer camp at Rock Eagle 4-H Center near Eatonton next summer, Bozeman said.
“Our 4-H Horse Club, which is led by two volunteers, has seen a real growth over the last year,” she said. “We had five members compete at the state show; they are doing more field trips and service projects. They will actually have a meeting during National 4-H Week with two guest speakers, a vet and a farrier. They are also planning a Christmas service project with Gabriel’s House.”
Bozeman said Sophia Rodriguez, 13, is serving as a 4-H Southeast District junior board vice-president. The district covers 39 counties, according to Bozeman.
“She is a phenomenal 4-H’er,” Bozeman said. “She does all our competitions, lots of service projects, and works with military families.”
“I love it. It’s what I do,” Rodriguez said. “At 4-H, you always feel like you’re welcome. Everyone can come, everyone’s invited.”
The middle-schooler said she’s made friends through 4-H and gets satisfaction from participating in service projects.
As a district officer, Rodriguez helps plan themes, projects and recreation for 4-H members.
“It’s how we’re a youth-led program,” Bozeman said. “Their ideas and input is what happens.”
Rodriguez said she used to be timid, but 4-H helped her develop confidence.
“I got a lot of my stage presence from 4-H,” she said.
Rodriguez said 4-H has also helped her academically.
“I learned how to do research in 4-H,” she said.
Bozeman said all her 4-H “kids” are terrific and said that Rodriguez can be counted on to help with events. The teen recently helped Bozeman with a nutritional milk lesson on Fort Stewart. They made 92 milkshakes over eight hours for several classes, the 4-H agent said.
Rodriguez has also helped with the 4-H Health Rocks program, which teaches alcohol, drugs and tobacco awareness and prevention.
“When you come (to 4-H) you’re just a big blob of play dough,” Rodriguez said. “When you leave you’re a sculpture.”
In celebration of 4-H week, Bozeman said a variety of activities will be offered for any youth ages 9-19 at the 4-H office from 4-5 p.m. These include an Adopt Liberty clean-up on Monday, creating holiday cards for the Wounded Warrior project on Tuesday, participating in a maps and apps lesson on Wednesday, and visiting the Hinesville Farmer’s Market on Thursday to learn about food production and healthy eating habits.
A “Find the 4-H Emblem” contest will also be held. A 4-H emblem poster will be displayed at different locations in the county each day, and a picture and clue will be posted on Liberty County’s 4-H Facebook page. The first person to identify the location on Facebook will win a prize, Bozeman said.
For more information, call Bozeman at 876-2133 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.