What a great year 2010 was for Alabama 4-H! And what a great year 2011 will be!
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System strives diligently to make the unique "hands-on, minds-on learning" approach of 4-H available to every young person in Alabama. As more and more adult volunteers step forward, more youth and more families get the opportunity to build Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery through 4-H.
This year our enrollment grew by 21 percent, adding more than 13,500 new members across the state. With 78,692 members, 4-H is the largest youth development organization in Alabama. Working with state and community partners, 4-H is building young people’s awareness of such traditional programs as public speaking and animal sciences, but we are most interested in responding to the changing needs and interests of young people. Even our wonderful "cooking" projects have often been nicely repackaged as "culinary arts," creating the next generation of Alton Browns and Paula Deans.
In Alabama, there are more than 1,700 clubs, with 65 percent in-school, led by Extension staff. Thirty-five percent of all clubs are volunteer-led, a significant increase from 2009. These volunteers are the friends and families, the parents, teachers and retirees who share our commitment to youth development. Sometimes these volunteers are driven by a passion, like forestry or culinary arts, and sometimes these adults recognize 4-H is a proven means of building kids’ skills as leaders and communicators. Our 3,000 volunteers give more than 106,000 hours of service valued at $2.2 million.
In these tough economic times, 4-H continues to be a bargain. We do not charge a membership fee, and programs and events are all free or available for very small fees—even our extraordinary 4-H Summer Camp and our ongoing Coosa River Science School.
The next time you see your legislators or county commissioners, shake their hands and tell them how much you appreciate public support of 4-H. And, when you meet a member of the Alabama 4-H Foundation Board of Directors, thank them for their commitment and energy on behalf of Alabama youth.
A national, ongoing study by Tufts University clearly demonstrates 4-H plays a vital role in the lives of young people. The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development study revealed 4-H youth are 25 percent more likely to contribute to their families, themselves and their communities; more likely to see themselves going to college compared to other youth; 41 percent less likely to engage in risky/problem behavior; and score higher on goal-setting and goal-management.
Chuck Hill is the 4-H Youth Development Specialist.
Janet McCoy is a 4-H Development Coordinator.