February 7, 2016

OPINION: 4-H builds character for those kids involved

Around this same time last year, I was writing a column about how, as a self-proclaimed “city boy,” I knew very little about what goes into the work of 4-H’ers and their experiences in raising and showing livestock and other animals at the Johnson County Fair.
Although I learned a lot from last year’s fair and its young talent, I continue to find myself amazed at the dedication and energy these youths bring to the fairgrounds and the arena.
I definitely think kids and teens of this generation could learn a lesson from 4-H’ers. Being involved in 4-H not only gives you something to focus on as a hobby or even potential career – it also allows you to become involved in community service and giving back to the city that you call home.
It’s a lesson today’s kids could stand to learn. Everywhere I go, it seems, children are mindlessly texting their friends, or playing a PSP while ignoring the world around them. I would hate to let my childhood pass me by as I became a slave to technology and all of its proverbial bells and whistles. I’d rather find something to keep me busy, to keep me genuinely interested, to keep me caring about – well, something.
When I was younger, that something was Boy Scouts. I remember how excited I’d get when my troop went on a field trip, how amazed I was to learn how to tie a square knot or learn the ins and outs of camping in the wilderness, how thrilled I was when my Pinewood Derby car didn’t win the race but gave it a good shot nonetheless.
Those youths in 4-H take that same concept – of embracing the world around them and always taking the initiative to learn something new, to finish what they began – and translate it into something tangible they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
Unlike their “big-city” counterparts, they don’t seem to be anchored to technology and its mind-numbing effects. Instead, they are learning and sharing skills that allow them to become our country’s next farmers, our next veterinarians, our next philanthropists, in an age when all three seem to be in such short supply.
While there is plenty of praise available for our student athletes, let’s face it – 4-H’ers learn skills that are much more practical and will serve them well in their adult lives. And, like student athletes, they also display teamwork, dedication, motivation and inner strength.
I have the utmost respect for 4-H’ers and the families who raise them, because they display the very best of what the next generation of leaders has to offer. As I get older, I feel better knowing I’m in good hands with these kids at the helm.
I hope all other “big city” folks like me can appreciate the same drive and passion that 4-H members share with one another and their communities.
In the meantime, thank you to all 4-H members and their families for not only enriching the quality of life in our community, but for showing us that with a little elbow grease, passion for learning and dedication to a project, we can enrich our own lives, too.


  1. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    In addition to Corbin’s thoughtful remarks, I would add how impressed I am by each 4-H member’s obvious and well-earned sense of pride in their accomplishment of their projects.

    The welcome page of 4-H.org explains they are “A community of more than 6 million youth and adults working together for positive change.”

    A few other facts I learned during my visit to their website:

    • The foundations of what became the 4-H organization began around 1900, not at a single location, but from the work of several people in different parts of the United States who were concerned about young people. Their ideas for practical and “hands-on” learning came from the desire to make public school education more connected to country life. Early programs tied both public and private resources together for helping rural youth.

    • 4-H can be found in every county of every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and over 80 countries around the world.

    • The official 4-H emblem is well recognized as a green 4-leaf clover a white “H” on each leaf. The white symbolizes purity. The green represents nature’s most common color and is emblematic of youth, life, and growth.

    • The use of the 4-H Name and Emblem are regulated by federal statute with the same honor and protection as the Seal of the President of the United States.

    • The emblem represents the four goals for youth development, as stated in the honorable 4-H pledge:
    • “I Pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
    • my Heart to greater loyalty,
    • my Hands to larger service,
    • and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

    I applaud the 4-H organization. A county fair just wouldn’t be as fun or meaningful without these club members and their adult mentors and families.

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