The beginning of the school year in Alabama also signals the start of the year for the state's largest youth development organization – 4-H. With 1,700 clubs offering diverse educational opportunities to more than 78,000 youth, Alabama 4-H is in its 103rd year of providing fun, educational programming.
The youth development mission of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 4-H has agents in each county who work with youth and train volunteer leaders to provide a wide range of educational programs.
"Alabama 4-H offers a variety of programming in every county so a youth is only limited by their interest and passion," says Lamar Nichols, assistant director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System for 4-H and Youth Development.
In hard economic times being faced by all families, 4-H continues to not charge a membership fee and offers no- to low-cost programs and events.
"Alabamians see the value of 4-H programs and know, with the great work of our regional 4-H Extension agents, county staff and volunteer leaders, we are building belonging, independence, generosity and mastery in today's young people," Nichols adds.
4-H offers unique adult mentorship and research-based youth development education because of its link to land-grant universities nationwide, something no other youth development organization offers. The mission of 4-H is to empower young people to reach their full potential.
The national theme of 4-H, "Join the Revolution of Responsibility," is tied to a national research report that shows 4-H'ers are caring, involved and responsible youth. The study shows they are 25 percent more likely to contribute to their families and communities; spend more time exercising and being physically active; and two times less likely to engage in drug use, drink alcohol or to use cigarettes.
Alabama 4-H is open to youth between the ages of 9 and 18 and offers many types of clubs:
- In-School, which provides 4-H educational materials and projects for teachers and volunteers to use in classes;
- Community 4-H clubs, which can service a wide age range of 4-H'ers with many members enrolling in projects according to their interests; and
Special interest clubs, such as shooting sports, livestock judging, Junior Master Gardner or a particular need in their community.
In addition to clubs, Alabama 4-H'ers can take part in a wide variety of activities offered by the community, county and state, including workshops, achievement programs, camps, tours and competitive events. There are also national trips for youth who excel in leadership and citizenship skills, including Citizenship Washington Focus, National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference.
For more information about becoming a 4-H'er, contact a county Extension office, or go online to www.Alabama4H.com.