The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 6, 2013

Learn by doing

By Susan Richmond
Program assistant Youth Development and 4-H

— Across West Virginia, young people involved in 4-H are making a lasting impact. Our 4-H’ers are building robots, helping the environment, exploring math and science, traveling to new places, getting healthy and becoming leaders in their communities and beyond.

And while many parents might be scratching their heads, wondering how one organization can do all this, the answer is simple: 4-H makes learning fun. As kids learn, they acquire skills and build confidence and become better citizens.

In fact, a recent national study of the 4-H “learn by doing” approach shows 4-H’ers are nearly twice as likely to get better grades in school and twice as likely to plan to go to college.

But for any youth-based organization to thrive, it takes the collective efforts of the children and families in our communities. There are opportunities throughout the year to become involved in a Raleigh County 4-H activity. But, there’s no better time to enroll than October.

Oct. 7 kicks off National 4-H Week, when young people can join the 4-H program in our area. There’s no charge to join and minimal charges for any activities.

“Raleigh County has one of the strongest programs in the state,” explains Rhonda Coleman, associate professor for West Virginia University Extension Service and Raleigh County Agent for Youth Development and 4-H.

“We have three residential camps during the summer. Younger Camp for ages 9-12. Older Camp for ages 12-19. Horse Camp for ages 9-19. There are 22 4-H Clubs located all over the county, and the number continues to grow. State 4-H Camps, held at Jackson’s Mill, Dance Weekend, YAC and OMC are just a few choices available to 4-H members young and old. There is something for everyone.” Coleman explains. “But these programs exist because of the volunteer base we have.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the program. Without leaders, there are no clubs. Raleigh County has school clubs, community clubs, church clubs and horse clubs. All leaders are subject to background checks and training, ensuring the safety of the children. We are always looking for new leaders.” Coleman continues.

“Our county has a strong Teen Leader Program in place, under the direction of Barbie Little and Missy Burleson. This opens up the world of 4-H to many young people from teen years to adulthood. They are a service-based club that volunteers year round in the community, meeting once a month at the extension office.

“It’s never too late to join 4-H.” Coleman says. “We are very proud of the impact they make in the lives of people they touch.”

About 4-H

- 4-H is the largest youth development organization in West Virginia and the nation. Nearly one in four West Virginia youth belongs to the 4-H program.

- Part of the program’s appeal is that it provides a safe and welcoming environment for children from various backgrounds to thrive. That same national study also found that girls in 4-H are more than twice as likely to participate in science, engineering or computer technology programs as their peers.

- 4-H changes lives and opens the door for new opportunities.

- A new 4-H program year is about to begin. For information about 4-H opportunities in Raleigh County, contact Rhonda Coleman, WVU Extension Agent or Susan Richmond, program assistant at 304-255-9321. A rewarding experience is waiting for you to “Make the best better!”