A Salute to 4-H

Northstar Notes

Memories and responsibilities, thanks to this youth leadership development program.

Published on: October 8, 2013

This week, Oct. 6-12, is National 4-H Week.

Knowing that takes me back some four decades when I worked on a window display in the Fostoria, Michigan, variety store, along with a couple of other 4-Hers. National 4-H Week was approaching and we were asked to design and decorate a window in the store.

The theme had something to do with rockets and blasting off into the future, if I recall. We made cardboard cut-outs of a rocket ship and other items, and covered them in aluminum foil or construction paper. Back then, decorating anything was pretty basic and low (read 'no') budget. You used materials found in your family's cupboards, closets or drawers, and your own ingenuity.

I was a teen with a task back then, giving little thought to what 4-H would mean to me in my middle-age years. I was more focused on getting the job done as I had other more interesting things to do that Saturday. At the time, I was not grasping the importance of that simple window display—that is was reminding the rural community that a small 4-H club was active there.

This week, we celebrate 4-H across the U.S. More than 6 million young people across the country are involved with the youth development organization.

Recently, some interesting information has been circulating about the impact of 4-H on young people. Maybe you've seen it, too.

Research from the Tufts University 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development shows that, when compared to their peers, today's young people in 4-H are:

-Nearly four times more likely to contribute to their communities.

-Two times more likely to pursue healthy behaviors.

-Two times more likely to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs in the out-of-school time.

And speaking of STEM, on Wednesday, thousands of youth will complete in the 4-H National Youth Science Day. The 2013 theme, 4-H Maps & Apps, will introduce youth to the importance of geographic information systems and geographic positioning systems as they design and map their ideal park, use mapping to solve community problems and contribute data to the U.S. Geological Survey.

If STEM would have been available when I was in 4-H, who knows what I would be doing today. 4-H definitely made an impact on my career as a journalist. I took photography projects throughout my 4-H years and I attended state 4-H functions at our Land Grant institution as a high school student. That influenced my choice of college and my major, agricultural communications.

Thanks, 4-H, for all the opportunities that you provide for young people!