Most people have heard of the 4-H club with many having been in 4-H when they were in school. There has always been a notion that 4-H was about a bunch of cows and pigs and other farm life projects. Historically, some of that is true but the 4-H program today is much more than when our grandparents were members. The 4-H program in Tallapoosa County, for example, has grown and evolved to something much more exciting and dynamic.
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career development. Nationally, 4-H is known as a community of young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U. S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. Each 4-H club/program strives to “Make the Best Better” through hands-on, thought-provoking learning.
Over the last two years, the Tallapoosa County 4-H program has seen a major growth in membership and new innovative programs. Over 1,500 youth across Tallapoosa County both the Tallapoosa County and Alexander City School Systems are participating in 4-H clubs.
“A few years ago, we made a commitment to bring back the traditional format of in-school 4-H clubs and make it our number one priority,” said Shane Harris, who has served as the Tallapoosa County Extension Coordinator since 2010. “We are thrilled to begin seeing some amazing results.”
4-H membership in 2016 is expected to exceed 1,600.
But growth in participation numbers is not the only success. Tallapoosa County 4-H is now offering and introducing so many more programs, projects, activities, and contests than ever before. Traditional programs and contests like livestock shows, public speaking, woodworking, sewing, photography, and baked foods still exist and are very important. But 4-H now gives youth opportunities to participate in programs and projects such as backyard chickens, kayaking, shooting sports, dog obedience, rockets, and arts and crafts. In addition, 4-H programs build life skills and problem solving and exposes our youth to topics which help them become college or career ready. It is ever changing and offering new opportunities.
“So much of what we offer through 4-H is about exposing youth to the world around them; Giving them an opportunity to learn or try something new,” said Deborah Stewart, 4-H Regional Extension Agent. “We now have a new exciting grade specific curriculum for 4th through 7th grades that is both fun and educational.”
Surprisingly, the top requested programs of interest by 4-Her’s are outdoor recreation and animals. This is not just a demand but also a need. In response, new 4-H programs and events are being offered. 4-H Chick Chain, 4-H RiverKids, and 4-H Shooting Sports are three successful programs now available in Tallapoosa County.
“Less and less of today’s youth grow up on farms and are spending time outdoors,” said Shane Harris. “Tallapoosa County is blessed with so many natural resources but yet 4-H is having to host outdoor recreational opportunities. And kids are just ecstatic when we bring in animals to the cubs or announce animal projects.”
Teachers, youth and parents alike love the new curriculum and direction of 4-H in Tallapoosa County.
“Not a day goes by that Shane and I are not stopped by a child or two when visiting a school to meet with a 4-H club,” said Deborah Stewart. “They always ask ‘Is 4-H today? or ‘When is 4-H?’. That always brings a smile because we know we are really making a difference in their lives.”
If you would like to know more about 4-H, become involved with 4-H as a family, or if you would like to volunteer your time, please contact the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050. It’s a great opportunity for both youth and adults.