More than 850 youth and volunteers turned out at the state Capitol on Wednesday to help kick off the celebration of the 100th birthday of 4-H. the youth and leaders came from the far corners of the state and many took two days, travelling through a major northwestern Wisconsin snow storm, to get to the celebration.
The event, held at the Concourse Hotel and then in the state Capitol was the start of a year-long celebration that will include special community service projects in April, a special day of recognition at the Wisconsin State Fair in August and numerous other local events throughout the year.
Since 1914, Wisconsin 4-H has helped youth grow the leadership, critical thinking and communications skills necessary to be successful in a constantly changing world.
SPEAKERS LIST BENEFITS
Cole Tidemann, state Youth Leader Council president from Fond du lac County, said, “4-H focuses on building life skills, important in the work force and community leadership and involvement. 4-H has had an impact on my life and shaped me into the person I am today.”
Like other 4-Hers, he began at the club level, developing skills and identifying special interests. He is proud of participating in the club’s community service activities and says now that his years as a 4-H member are nearing the end, he can see the appreciation the community has for the efforts of the 4-Hers.
While his involvement started at the club level he eventually moved on to county level 4-H activities and finally state activities.
“Through these things I have developed skills I will use throughout my life,” he says. “I’ve learned how to work on committees, develop leadership skills, communicate in many ways and accept different opinions,” he said.
Many of the youth who spoke at the event credited 4-H for developing their ability to speak in public, to move out of their comfort zones and to move forward with new ideas.
Kathryn Kugel, a state YLC member from Shawano County, talked about the networking opportunities 4-h offers and how they are helpful throughout life.
“I met people I would have never known had I not been involved in 4-H,” she says. “I learned team bhilding skills and I learned how to give back to my township and that they appreciate the community service projects of 4-H clubs.”
Teri Wallis, Wisconsin 4-H Adult Leader Council vice president, said the many opportunities 4-H offers are like pieces of a puzzle.
“There is the feeling of belonging, of independence, and of generosity. It’s a feeling of being part of a community, giving to that community and getting back through the satisfaction that comes with that. It’s mastering a skill in a project and learning new things,” she illustrates.
Wallis encouraged youth to share their stories with others, including legislators that they would be meeting during the day’s event.
Two legislators took part in the program including Rep. Melissa Sargent, Madison, who read the official joint legislative proclamation recognizing the 100 years of 4-H.
Rep Duey Stroebel, Ozaukee County, described how 4-H has benefited his family. He said he has eight children and all of them are involved in 4-H. He described the character-building qualities of 4-H and said 4-H involvement helps youth learn responsibility.
“There are always things we don’t like to do but we learn to do them anyway because it is part of our responsibility,” he said. “4-Hers learn that early on and they see the rewards that come from sticking with, even those things they don’t necessarily like to do.”
YOUTH PROMOTION ACTIVITIES
Following the opening session, participants in the celebration divided into groups. Some 4-Hers practiced traditional camp-fire songs that they sang later in the rotunda. A few representatives of each county prepared short “elevator speeches” that they presented later when they met with their local representatives and Senators.
Wisconsin 4-H programs are supported by the hard work of more than 20,000 youth and adult volunteers. Wisconsin 4-H programs continue to emphasize lifelong learning and a strong connection with the University of Wisconsin. Program areas are available for all interests.
The Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development program area is part of the UW-Extension, and 4-H programs are delivered in partnership with the USDA and federal, state and local governments. Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development draws strength from partnerships with UW-Extension and with county government in each of the 72 counties.
On February 19, Governor Scott Walker issued a Certificate of Commendation, formally recognizing the benefits of this very successful youth program.
Throughout the year there will be numerous local and state celebrations of the 4-H centennial.