July 2013
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: The Impact of Alabama 4-H

 
  Worried about today’s young people? Don’t be! State 4-H Council Member Sydney Hubbert is a great mentor for younger kids. Here she’s helping with a Montgomery Health Rocks Day Camp at Maxwell Air Force Base. It’s one of the many ways she serves.

Every day, 4-H touches hundreds of young lives throughout our state. Cooperative Extension staff and 4-H volunteers work together to provide kids with opportunities and training to strengthen them as well as our Alabama families and communities. Here are just a few things we do.

Military Programs

Alabama was on the ground floor in developing national 4-H programs for military youth. During the past 12 years, our Operation Military Kids program has served thousands of Guard and Reserve families. That is in addition to our long-standing links to Fort Rucker, Redstone Arsenal and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. Although the American presence in the Middle East has changed, our program for Guard and Reserve youth alone served more than 2,300 military youth in 2012.

 
Alabama 4-H has wonderful resources for our state’s great military kids. Canoeing on Lay Lake is one of the ways the Alabama 4-H Center helps young people develop belonging and independence, key ingredients in the 4-H experience.  

Social Media

A century ago, 4-H went where the kids were - Alabama’s family farms. Today, our young people are on Twitter and text and Instagram, so that is where 4-H has gone. The Alabama 4-H presence on Facebook is skyrocketing, growing by 71 percent in the past month alone. Our state 4-H Facebook presence links county, club and interest Facebook groups. It currently reaches 2,500 people per week with a base of 126,000 "friends of friends," a number increasing exponentially. We are out front with new media such as Instagram where we have a growing following.

BodyQuest

In health criteria such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and life expectancy, Alabama trails the nation. To respond to this crisis, Alabama 4-H provides the Nutrition Education Program BodyQuest. Youth become BodyQuest warriors who fight poor eating habits and encourage healthy lifestyles. Youth are encouraged to teach their families BodyQuest warrior habits.

 
  Alabama 4-H builds Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery. And as this club member in Loachpoka seems to know, “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t 4-H!”

Data suggests 4-H BodyQuest warriors have increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, directly improving quality of life for them and their families. Over 1,700 4-H youth participate in this program and the numbers are growing.

Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations. The 4-H Health Rocks program teaches youth what’s important to resist and what’s not.

Over 4,200 4-H youth have participated in Health Rocks.

Ninety-one percent of youth surveyed agree they are able to refuse drugs provided by peers, family members or other people.

Ninety-one percent of youth agree, before making a decision, they need to think about what effects their choice will have on their future.

 
What kind of teeth does a predator have? Does a skunk’s fur feel different from a bobcat’s pelt or that of a rabbit? Through 4-H science education programs, young people are able to have a “hands-on” learning experience with a variety of animals living in our region – something previous generations may have taken for granted.  

Just Move Alabama!

Being overweight and inactivity are consistently linked with increased incidence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer. Alabama 4-H developed Just Move Alabama!, a fun, food and fitness program to help 4-H youth adopt the habit of regular exercise and healthy eating. Over 3,500 youth participated in Just Move Alabama! in 2012. Over 90 percent of participants say, because of the experience, they choose activities that make them healthier and make healthier food choices.

The Alabama 4-H Center

The 4-H Center’s camping program allows youth to master new skills, gain confidence and be a part of a larger, more diverse state community. 4-H camping offers classes and experiences in over 15 subject areas. The biggest impact of 4-H camps can be measured in the relationships, natural environments and carefully planned programs.

The Center’s Coosa River Science School provides year-round, hands-on learning in science and in outdoor and adventure-based programming. It provides live animal outreach with raptors and reptiles. Our primary goals are to encourage youth to appreciate Alabama’s natural environment and increase awareness and excitement about the outdoors.

 
  Nothing has a greater impact on youth development than the link to caring, committed adults. 4-H volunteers and staff provide extraordinary support to young people. During our Alabama Volunteer Spring Training, this group got together to share knowledge and have fun.

The Alabama 4H Center also operates as a full service conference center. We are earning the reputation as a great place for business and family events. Money from conference activities helps keep youth programming affordable.

4-H Innovators

Youth in the United States are falling behind other countries in science, technology, engineering and math. In response, Alabama is developing 4-H Innovators or 4-Hi. 4-Hi is a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to science, engineering, technology and math. The program helps young people identify real Alabama problems in areas like irrigation, auto design and safety, and find technological solutions to those problems. Learning and engagement mirror the real-world processes used in engineering. The program has received a gift of $110,000 from the Barbara D. Thorne Fund.

Volunteerism

The safety of our youth and our volunteers and staff is our first priority. Over 2,627 volunteers help Alabama 4-H provide educational opportunities and activities through teaching and mentoring. These volunteers gave $2.1 million in volunteer time to support educational programs in 2012. New Alabama 4-H volunteer safety and protective measures were also developed in 2012. These new measures allowed the program to run full background investigations on 1,100 volunteers – helping assure the well-being of both our youth and our volunteers.

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.