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WEST ALLIS – In a time when young people are often criticized for their lack of drive and willingness to give back, 4-Hers from around the state are demonstrating that these naysayers are wrong.

As the 4-H year comes to a close and a new one begins, clubs are reviewing their activities of the past year, including numerous community service projects.

Susan Roche of the Astico Perseverance 4-H Club in Dodge County, lists the top ten reasons why 4-H members have an interest in serving their community.

She states: #10, it’s good for you, providing physical and mental rewards; #9 it saves resources; #8 volunteers gain professional experience; #7 it brings people together, uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal; #6 it promotes personal growth and self esteem; #5 volunteering strengthens your community; #4 you can learn a lot; #3 you get a chance to give back; #2 volunteering encourages civic responsibility; #1 “You make a difference!”  

4-H clubs around the state are making a difference in their communities, donating to food pantries, honoring those serving in the military, helping families in need at Christmas, and sharing their projects and time with elderly in the community and so much more.

Beyond borders

The Juneau Victorians 4-H reached beyond their own Dodge County community by sponsoring a 4-h club in Haiti.

Along with monetary donations to the club, families assembled letters telling the Haiti club what 4-H is like in Wisconsin.  The club passed along seeds which they say was a welcomed donation because recent hurricanes in Haiti had wiped out many of the gardens the people rely on for food.

Juneau Victorian members, as a result of the project, learned about life in Haiti, about what they have in common as 4-Hers, and learned about the things they take for granted such as a place to meet, the ability to quickly travel to 4-H meetings, and bathroom facilities.

The project was done through the Ventures in People program that organizes 4-H clubs in Haiti.  Members in Hatian 4-H clubs participate in projects that are essential for their livelihood and also complete community service projects that benefit their small town’s health and wellness such as installing latrines.

Developing leaders

While 4-Hers are helping others they are also developing leadership skills.

Alexis Luedtke, co-president of the Wisconsin 4-H Leadership Council and a 9-year member of the Leipsic 4-H in Dodge County, is an example of a youth who went from a shy third grader to an outgoing champion for 4-H.

She describes her fear of going off to 4-H camp as a young 4-Her and how, by the end of the week she didn’t want camp to end.

“It was my first opportunity to go out on my own without my parents holding my hand,” she said. “Without the generosity of youth and adult volunteers and donors to the 4-H program we would not have a 4-H camp.”

The Youth Council provides a statewide forum for youth and adult volunteer leaders to discuss ideas and provide input to enhance the UW-Extension 4-H Youth Development programs at the state, county and local levels. Among her duties as officer is planning the annual state 4-H conference, the fall forum and state fair activities including the Meat Processor’s auction that started in 1991 for the benefit of 4-H.

More than 6 million young people across the country will celebrate National 4-H Week, an annual celebration of 4-H during the first full week of October.  During National 4-H Week, 4-H will showcase the great things that 4-H offers young people and highlights the incredible 4-H youth in the community who work each day to make a positive impact on the community.

Basics of 4-H

Luedtke says there are four basic elements to the over-all 4-H program. The first is “belonging” and she illustrated how 4-H members develop a sense of belonging to clubs, projects and activities.

She said, “When I moved to Wisconsin when I was in the third grade I didn’t know anyone. 4-H gave me a place where I felt like I belonged.”

Another element of 4-H is “independence”. 

“In 4-H you can choose which projects to take, what activities you want to take part in and how active you want to be,” she says.

“Generosity” is the third element of 4-H.  Participants offered examples of how 4-H teaches generosity including learning good manners, being kind, remembering names, helping others with projects.

“As we get ourselves ready for the future we also have the opportunity to help others,” she says.

The fourth element of 4-H is “mastering.”  She illustrates how enrollment in projects help youth master skills and “make the best better.”

Luedtke is a senior at Beaver Dam High School.  She spent the summer working at a resort in Minnesota, a job she was asked to take by the family of the resort owner who she met at the 4-H conference.

Luedtke’s college plans are in the area of political science and law.

Earlier this year, through the 4-H Citizenship Focus-Presidential Inauguration program, she had the opportunity to join 31 delegates from Wisconsin to be in Washington D.C. for the inauguration. 

The Wisconsin delegates were among 500 4-Hers who enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

She describes it as a week-long experience that allows youth to learn about the nation’s history and see important monuments and become familiar with how society works.

During the week the 500 4-H delegates ran their own election process, electing their various government officials, including their own president.  At the end of the week they elected their officials and had their own inaugural ball.

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