AUBURN, Ala. — More than 100 years later, Alabama 4-H empowers youth’s heads, hearts, hands and health. Founded in 1909, Alabama 4-H, which is the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s youth development component, works with young people in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.
“The 4-H program provides youth with opportunities and experiences to build their capacity of becoming college and career ready,” said Dr. Molly Gregg, assistant director of the Alabama 4-H Program.
Alabama 4-H challenges children to be their best and achieve their goals. It also empowers children with a mindset to continue their personal development throughout their life.
“We love to see kids grow and try things they have never done before and be successful,” said Deborah Stewart, Alabama 4-H Foundation regional Extension agent.
A program for everyone including children and adults, 4-H provides a variety of opportunities for children to become involved.
“I had a mom say that her little boy is not good at sports. He really didn’t have any interests until 4-H came along,” said Stewart. “4-H lit his soul. That is what this program is. It’s offering opportunities for children to find something they can enjoy.”
Through the program, children explore their interests through school clubs and community clubs. All clubs are led by certified adult volunteers who are passionate about certain topics.
“Volunteers undergo a rigorous process of background checks and lots of screening and training,” said Stewart.
Children and teens learn life skills
“4-H offers clubs in leadership, arts, livestock, shooting sports, gardening, sports fishing and kayaking clubs,” said Dr. Gregg.
While gaining hands-on experience, children have the opportunity to compete at their local county contests. Then, winners compete at a regional competition. The senior level winners move forward to compete at the state competition, which takes place at the 4-H Center in Columbiana.
“Another great part of 4-H clubs is that an eighth grader and a 12th grader in a shooting sport together teach and learn from each other,” said Stewart.
Along with clubs, students serve as members of the state 4-H council, a youth governing body for Alabama 4-H, or as a state ambassador.
“Alabama 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the nation,” said Dr. Gregg. More than 144,000 young people participated in some 4-H activity in the last year. In addition, volunteers put in more than 59,000 hours of work supporting Alabama 4-H.
Each county in Alabama has a 4-H program. For more information about your local 4-H club or apply to volunteer, visit www.aces.edu.