March 2006
4-H Extension Corner


I hope that everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day and took the time to hug the ones you love the most. I lost a great friend to cancer this week and I can’t tell you enough "Cherish the Moments as Your Kids Grow Up."

We are not promised tomorrow but we take it for granted that it will come and like today we will put off things that should be our top PRIORITY. Live your life like you have only today and at the end you will not be disappointed!

I have just returned from a week long trip in Arizona, where we had the opportunity to visit Volunteer led 4-H clubs that were led by the 4-Hers. We had a wonderful time sharing ideas and comparing the positives of both State Programs. I think we have a great future ahead with positive impacts and leadership from our youth and Volunteers.

Adults Play an Important Role in Alabama 4-H

Did you know that Paul Revere was a remarkable silversmith and a successful businessman? Most of us, however, remember him for his volunteer work – and his horsemanship.

Volunteers are the glue that holds our society and our communities together. Where would we be without the baseball and soccer coaches, the choir members and Sunday school teachers, the United Way volunteers and the unpaid members of civic boards?

We in Alabama 4-H have always been blessed with an outstanding staff, the county agents and the many wonderful agent assistants. However, many people warmly recall the days when 4-H had a larger workforce. These days it is hard to imagine the times when all Alabama counties had boys’ and girls’ 4-H agents, and 4-H club meetings were a regular part of school-day activities. In those days, the duties of volunteers were most often ferrying kids to events.

Like everything else in the world, 4-H has changed. The Alabama 4-H staff is much smaller than it once was, and there are hundreds of thousands more kids in our state who could benefit from the 4-H experience. And while some schools still welcome 4-H, many have such full academic schedules that 4-H is no longer a welcome school-day presence.

But thanks to the caring and commitment of our trained volunteers, our "Paul Reveres," the possibilities for what 4-H can be are greater than ever. Parents, teachers, and others will have tremendous opportunities to share their skills and interests with Alabama’s kids.

Over the next few years, you will see a continuing growth in 4-H community clubs. Community clubs meet in schools, homes, churches or even businesses. They allow young people from 3rd - 12th grade to have fun, meet new people, learn life skills, build self-confidence, learn responsibility and achieve personal goals. The community club is the traditional approach to 4-H in most of the United States, with young people, families and communities all working together to build leadership and new skills.

In community clubs, young people manage the clubs following the 4-H approach of "learning by doing." They plan the year’s programs and activities; they raise the money and balance the checkbook; and they decide what the club looks like and how it is organized. In well-run community clubs, 4-H is never something that adults do for the kids, it’s something that the young people learn to do for themselves.

Although 4-H youth develop great responsibilities, adult volunteers play a crucial role in community clubs. University research shows that interaction with caring adults, other than parents, is very important to youth development. Adults serve as role models and teachers. They impart new information and help young people to get new perspectives and new expertise.

You might also have a special skill that you would like to share with young people. In the future you will see a real growth in 4-H interest clubs. Around the United States, there are 4-H clubs that focus on everything from emus to skate boarding. Perhaps there are young people in your community who want to learn about the peanut industry or quilting. Perhaps you have a special awareness of the culinary arts or were trained as a rodeo clown. Those are all skills that you could share through 4-H.

The Alabama 4-H program helps young people develop skills in making decisions, thinking critically, building relationships, practicing leadership, and developing a concern for the community and the environment. If you are interested in being a part of this important task, I would encourage you to call your county Extension office to find out how you can get involved. It’s important to our kids, and you will find that it is important to you.

Good luck to all of you that have livestock to show this month.

Until next time, God Bless!
    James Shropshire

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region.