To me, 4-H is much more than that. And in honor of National 4-H week, I'd like to share exactly what 4-H means to me and how it made my best even better.
When I was turned nine years old, my mother promptly drove me to the county Extension office and enrolled me in 4-H. (and I’m not kidding - I turned 9 in December and I’m pretty sure there was still snow on the ground when we went to the Extension office). Before long, I had been tasked with writing demonstrations, keeping record books for my projects, and planning ahead for my first year in 4-H. That’s a lot for a nine year old to process!
From that point on, this shy, quiet little girl became involved in multiple 4-H projects (horse, dog, cooking, and sewing, to name a few), gave demonstrations, made lifelong friendships, and eventually became a mentor and leader for other 4-Hers.
- Lifelong Friendships - There's something about spending endless hours with people your age, memorizing lines for demonstrations and studying equine anatomy to the finite level, that leads to new friendships. I became close enough to some of those friends and their families that they are pretty much part of my family. And even though life has taken some of us in different directions, we still stay in touch.
4. Extensive Knowledge of Everything Equine - Have you ever participated or met someone who has participated in horse bowl or hippology? Preparing for these contests usually involves studying and memorizing every known fact about horses. While other kids my age were at the mall or the movies on Friday nights, I was studying the musculature of the horse, learning scientific names, and calculating horse rations. While it doesn't sound that fun, and at times felt overwhelming, that information I memorized still comes in handy today, especially when things go awry at the barn.
The 4-H motto is "to make the best better," and when the Danish ribbon system is used as intended, it can help youth learn when they need to improve. Sure, it's never easy to get a white ribbon (and I've received my fair share), but how can someone be motivated to improve if they're always getting a blue ribbon, regardless of their effort?
- In the middle of horse bowl practice, a spur of the moment performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.
- The night before the Southern Regional team demo contest, my little sister fell asleep underneath a kiddie pool in a hotel room, while my partner and I proceeded to attempt to practice (to no avail.)
- Practicing day and night for the State 4-H Horse Show, and finally earning a Top Ten placing in Showmanship during my last year in 4-H.
4-H isn't just a clover or a club to me. It represents 10 of the best years of my life. It's a part of who I am, and I hope others can experience the same benefits that I did.