Local influence: Wyoming 4-H’ers celebrate National 4-H Week in communitiesWritten by Emilee Gibb
Established over 100 years ago, the 4-H program was created to provide hands-on learning opportunities outside of the classroom for students eight years old through 12th grade.
4-H’ers from around Wyoming celebrated National 4-H Week Oct. 2-8 through various activities organized by their local clubs.
The 4-H program was first created to provide hands-on learning experiences that bridged public school education and rural life for youth.
Several after-school programs were created in the early 1900s that all contributed to the development of the 4-H program.
“A.B. Graham started a youth program in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902, which is considered the birth of 4-H in the United States. The first club was called ‘The Tomato Club’ or the ‘Corn Growing Club,’” says 4-H on their website.
The program is now the nation’s largest youth development organization, with projects ranging from livestock husbandry to fashion revue to robotics.
“The 4-H idea is simple – help young people and their families gain the skills needed to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy,” continues 4-H.
The national 4-H program extends its reach to youth across both rural and urban America, utilizing local volunteers and 4-H professionals.
“Our network of 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 4-H professionals provides caring and supportive mentoring to all 6 million 4-H’ers, helping them grow into true leaders today and in life,” explains 4-H.
Wyoming 4-H has continued to grow over the last 100 years, reaching youth in every county of the state.
“Last year, we had 7,015 youth enrolled in 4-H clubs in Wyoming,” says Wyoming 4-H Office Administrative Assistant Karen Allison.
Family involvement and local volunteers are an essential part of the success of Wyoming 4-H.
“There are more than 2,700 volunteer leaders in the 4-H program who provide the guidance, knowledge, experience and enthusiasm that help 4-H members, as well as communities,” says Wyoming 4-H on its website.
The program boasts over 40 project areas that 4-H’ers can participate in, as well as leadership opportunities, including the Wyoming 4-H Leadership Team.
“It’s very much based on what the youth are interested in, but then they also get components and life skills through their project work and through their club work that they don’t realize they’re getting, a lot of the time until their older,” says Laramie County 4-H Extension Educator Tansey Sussex.
County clubs around Wyoming hosted a variety of activities throughout National 4-H Week to highlight the value of the 4-H program in their communities.
Sussex says that Laramie County 4-H’s largest event for the week was a kickoff open house.
“We hope that all of the potential members who are interested in joining came, and then we have a lot of returning members who also attend,” she says. “Our members demonstrated some of their project areas, the clubs did some recruiting, and we did a National Youth Science Day experiment.”
Throughout the week, Laramie County 4-H’ers also participated in activities including window painting, a spirit day, an appreciation day and a day to tell their friends about 4-H.
“Friday was our 'Tell a Friend About 4-H Day,' where the kids shared what the benefits of 4-H are and why they joined the program to recruit their friends to attend,” says Sussex.
4-H’ers in Sublette County hosted celebrations in Pinedale and Big Piney to promote the 4-H program to community members.
“Our members and leaders brought in project and club displays to set up. Community members came in, saw what we are all about, looked at what clubs are doing and visited with leaders about clubs and projects,” says Sublette County 4-H Extension Educator Robin Schamber.
The county also provided a number of giveaways throughout the week for answering 4-H trivia questions, as well as gifts for the first members and volunteers who enrolled.
The events hosted throughout National 4-H Week help to recruit new members to local 4-H programs, says Schamber.
“Our National 4-H Week Celebration is our largest recruitment drive for new members,” continues Schamber.
Laramie County 4-H has also hosted events to celebrate National 4-H Week for three years and has seen rapid growth in their program.
“Last year, from our first year to our second year, our celebration grew exponentially. We were very excited, but we ran out of space. This year we had a little more space, and we’re hoping that it keeps growing,” says Sussex.
The public celebrations are successful in creating interest in 4-H for many reasons, including building rapport with interested families, adds Sussex.
“It’s helpful because attendees get to meet staff and leaders. We get to have a one-on-one discussion with them about what we offer, and then I think it helps tie them in a little bit more to the program throughout the year,” concludes Sussex.