2018-08-12 / News

4-H sets sights to the future

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese @mihomepaper.com

LAPEER TWP. — With the Eastern Michigan State Fair wrapped up for another year, Lapeer County’s 4-H is turning its sights on the future.

The week of fair represents for many 4-H members the culmination of months of effort, both for animal clubs and the various SPIN (special interest) clubs, but there’s always room for more, and last week the Lapeer County 4-H Expansion and Review Committee met to discuss strategies to increase youth and adult participation among underserved demographics and areas throughout the county.

According to program coordinator Kathy George, the goal of the committee is to ensure every interested child, from age 5-19, has the opportunity to participate in a 4-H sponsored group. “We want to make sure we’re reaching all youth and that our services are reaching the whole community,” she said. “That, in a nutshell, is why we’re (holding Expansion and Review Committee meetings). Lapeer 4-H is kind of like a family, we’re a very closeknit group and we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to experience that.”

The 4-H Expansion and Review Committee is comprised of various community members, and a key aspect of the group, said George, is the different perspectives offered by members, who are otherwise not involved in 4-H. The group meets twice a year to discuss current 4-H programming efforts, determine areas of improvement, brainstorm ideas to reach underserved audiences and set goals for the coming months.

“There are all kinds of different areas that we can be working on,” said George. “The statistics say a lot, and we want to show that it’s worth investing in 4-H.” According to George, youth participation in 4-H has shown to reduce disciplinary issues and increase success in education. “Basically, we want to train (youth) now and educate and enrich them now, so they can become able, contributing citizens,” she said.

Nationally, 4-H is the largest youth organization in the United States, featuring more than 200,000 young people. In Lapeer County, members number approximately 500, and through various outreach efforts and educational seminars, last year’s reach exceeded 3,000. But there’s no time to be content, said George. “We always have to keep proving ourselves and one way to do that is to try to reach underserved communities,” she said.

According to a 4-H member map, the eastern and southwestern edges of Lapeer County feature fewer members than other areas, and the Expansion and Review Committee targeted those areas as potential locations for increased outreach efforts. “We want to make sure we practice non-discrimination and equal opportunity to serve everyone we can,” said George. “We also want to find unique and interesting things we can offer as clubs and try to think outside the box.”

George said the hardest part is “getting out and getting more people involved,” a perennial issue for not only 4-H but many community organizations. “There’s so much more that 4-H can offer,” said Expansion and Review Committee member Quentin Andrews. Andrews, a current student at Saginaw Valley State University, participated in Lapeer County 4-H for several years. “I’ve always been involved in the livestock side of it but there’s so much more and we need to let people know.”

In addition to the regular clubs, both animal-related and special interest, 4-H members have the opportunity to participate in a slate of current programming, such as the 4-H Challenged Me Program, Ambassador Court Program, the Lapeer 4-H Camp at Camp Lael and a yearly Spring Achievement event. “4-H allows kids to explore interests to see where their skills are that will lead to that degree or career,” said George.

According to Expansion and Review Committee member Allen Rosenbalm, one of the keys to raise awareness of the possibilities of 4-H involvement is to increase outreach related to non-animal clubs. “I hear all the time, ‘well, I don’t live on a farm or have animals,’ but that’s only part of it,” he said. “People still just don’t know everything that 4-H can offer, there are a lot of misconceptions.”

For more information on 4-H programming, how to join a club as a youth, or how to create a club as an adult leader, contact George at 810- 667-0343 or email george92@msu.edu.

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