May 2006
4-H Extension Corner

  4-H youth participated in the 2006 Livestock Judging Camp in Clanton.
Welcome to the beginning of summer! Well, for all youth who are finishing their school year, it is the beginning of summer.

For those of you who are high school seniors, it is a time of transition to an exciting and challenging new phase of life. Best wishes as you begin making many important decisions. Remember the good advice that adults in your life have given you, and do not be afraid to ask for their opinions and wise counsel.

And I hope that adults will listen thoughtfully and carefully to the questions that young people will ask. We cannot live our children’s lives for them; we just hope that we give them the tools they need to succeed in a complex and changing world.

This summer will again be packed with opportunities for 4-H youth, with many contests and competitions. In fact, many wonderful things have been happening regarding all areas of 4-H.

During the year ahead, you may begin seeing some new and exciting aspects of Alabama
4-H, along with the traditional parts of 4-H that you already know and love. Several museums in our state will host the brilliant arts projects that Alabama 4-H youth have created, and plans are underway for one of our state’s leading magazines to publish our state photography winners.

Yes, Alabama 4-H works diligently to respond to the changing needs and interests of Alabama’s young people, as we stay committed to our core values of "head, hands, heart, and health." Please stay updated by going to the website at

Volunteers get ready for a very busy few months. We appreciate the work you do to help the development of our Alabama youth. Thank you to all of the youth who participated in the Livestock Judging Camp in Clanton.

Please remember that if you or your company would like to support Alabama’s young people in a great way, call me at 205-280-6268 and ask about our Second Annual 4-H Golf Tournament to be held at the Farm Links Research and Development Course in Sylacauga. The proceeds will go toward our Environmental Education Building at the 4-H Youth Development Center near Columbiana and to support 4-H Educational Program-ming throughout the state. Not only will Tommy Tuberville and Pat Dye be there, we hope to have other well-known Alabamians there so that you have a chance for a photo and some personal time with them.
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Those of you who were in 4-H or who have children in 4-H know that in our pledge we say: "I pledge my heart to greater loyalty."

Youth development research, and plain old common sense, tells us that if young people don’t get a chance to belong to something good, they can easily belong to something that’s not good. If the church, the family, the school, or the club is not available to a young person, they can always find a sense of belonging through gangs, drugs or even through abusive relationships.

Kids will find affection and belonging wherever they can. They need to know that they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in a group. That connection can be positive, like playing in the band or joining the 4-H club, or it can be negative. When kids sneak off to drink beer, they are doing it to be part of a group. And all too often when kids take sexual risks, those are based on a need for acceptance and what they perceive to be love and affection.

The positive opportunity for belonging has always been important to the 4-H experience. It’s crucial to be part of a team, where you feel physically and emotionally safe. It’s important for young people to learn to feel in charge of their lives and to have adults and older youth outside their own family who will listen to them and treat them with respect.

The current youth development research emphasizes that kids benefit from long-term, consistent relationships with adults other than their parents. They need to see how adults, other than Mom or Dad, live their lives. Not many of us grow up to be mirror images of our parents, so young people gain from seeing what options they have in defining what it means to be a grown-up. As a coach, Sunday school teacher, or 4-H volunteer, you might be that adult who truly makes a difference in a young person’s life.

The current research also suggests that a sense of belonging may be the single most powerful positive ingredient we can add into the lives of children and youth. Working in clubs through 4-H strengthens and reinforces social skills that will allow youth to exist with others in a society where not everybody looks like them, acts like them or thinks like them. 4-H members learn early on the value of cooperation in their project work and activities. That is why there is always an emphasis on teamwork and cooperation.

Along those lines, previous generations in the rural South used to have these wonderful social and artistic activities called "quilting bees." You can expect some more of those through 4-H. One of the new events that is being introduced in 4-H is Alabama Quilters: The Next Generation. Although the details on this activity are still under development, it’s good to see this traditional activity experiencing a rebirth. Think of what a group of teens can learn working with a group of grandmothers - and think of what the grandmothers can learn from the teens!

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region. E-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..