Hundreds of youth are involved in 4-H programs in Franklin and Ripley counties.
The annual summer fairs in each county allow them to showcase their talents through various projects. However, being a part of this organization also teaches kids life skills and values.
Tammy Sidell, a Busy Bees 4-H Club, Batesville, leader, believes “4-H is a leader-building tool. Kids that join 4-H tend to be the good kids in the community, and the leaders are positive role models to emulate .... (the organization) has very good connections with colleges like Purdue, and there are other clubs to join like Junior Leaders, which lead to exchanges with other states.”
Gail Streit, an Oldenburg Spires 4-H Club leader, notes, “4-H is great as far as meeting kids from your area. It helps we have a wide range of ages involved. The older kids can tell the younger kids about projects they have done .... They help each other, work together and build friendships.”
It is a “very well-rounded organization,” reports Theresa Boyce, a Super Kids 4-H Club, Franklin County, leader. Kids not only learn responsibility, they “learn basic things like cooking.”
From his own experience in 4-H, Clint Nuhring, a Country Kids 4-H Club, Batesville, leader, says, “I got to know kids from the whole county .... I have had business interaction opportunities as an adult with so many people I was in 4-H with .... It’s a greater sense of community beyond your small town.”
Pat Moster, a Morris Shamrocks 4-H Club leader, adds, “Those that go to camp also meet kids from other parts of the state.”
Even though the fair is six months away, the leaders are offering advice to members. Boyce says, “Now the kids are filling out enrollment forms. I try to get them to try a new project because they might like it. We’re getting ready to elect new officers, and I encourage them to take on new leadership roles.”
Streit tells the youth “to look at what they’re doing in school to see if it’s a project they can carry over into 4-H.” For instance, if a student has to create a poster on a country, that may tie in with international studies. Some may have leaf projects that can work for forestry. “There’s also art .... Anything they’re doing in school, they may be able to use or expand upon.”
Nuhring reports, “We typically have our meetings on a monthly basis.” Once the youth turn in their forms to the extension office, “we make sure they get the right manuals and books and know about workshops that are available for those taking projects like electric .... For those taking animal projects, there are different health tests to be done before the fair, and some animals have to be ID’d and tagged.
“We go beyond the immediate focus on 4-H and try to do some sort of business feature and allow the kids to interact with business people .... We’ve gone to Schmidt’s Bakery, Red Forge Welding and Westerfeld Belgian Farms. A guy from Crossman Fire & Safety has come to our meetings” and showed the kids how to use a fire extinguisher to put out a blaze.
“We encourage members to do a demonstration throughout the year. One member showed ways you can win at tick-tack-toe. Another did a picture show of a family trip. Others talk about the 4-H projects they did last year .... It’s neat to see some of them get up in front of the group as young kids and they’re so nervous, but it’s amazing how much easier it is for them to talk in front of people as they get older.”
Moster recalls, “I was a 10-year member, and my kids were 10-year members .... Projects have changed, and there’s a lot more animals than there used to be.
“A couple of the little kids took shooting sports, and it’s so surprising what they can do.”
The leaders plan various outings for members. The Morris Shamrocks have gone Christmas caroling and made cards for nursing home patients. The Oldenburg Spires went geotracking. “The kids thoroughly enjoyed it,” Streit reveals. “Some even did it with their families while on vacation.”
Megan Huber, 14, Batesville, a Busy Bees 4-H Club member, says through this organization she gets to “meet new people, and it’s just a lot of fun doing new things.” Her favorite projects are foods and child development. She has learned “how to take care of kids” and has made biscuits, rolls, cookies and muffins.
Caleb Moster, 14, Batesville, is president of the Country Kids 4-H Club. For woodworking, he has made “a little treasure box to hold things, a stool and a clothes tree.” He put to use the skills he learned from electric projects by changing two light fixtures in two rooms.
As a fundraiser, “we have a paper shed (behind the Memorial Building on Sycamore Street) where people can bring their used newspapers to be recycled. Each member has two weeks every year to empty the shed and drop off the papers in a trailer.”
Fellow member Cole Nuhring, 17, Batesville, announces his favorite projects are forestry, electric, rabbits and goats. He appreciates “all the knowledge I gained and how I can apply it to everyday life .... I’ve learned a lot of public speaking stuff, and I like teaching younger kids.” His club does a lot of service projects, such as cleaning up trash and helping at Safe Passage.
Nichole Flaspohler, 18, Sunman, Morris Shamrocks 4-H Club president, loves scrapbooking, swine and dairy feeder steers. As a member of Junior Leaders, “we do community service, participate in exchange trips to different states and sponsor a Mini 4-H Day for kindergarten through second-graders.”
Through 4-H, “I have learned the value of hard work, responsibility, completing something that you start, making friends and working together to accomplish a task.”
For more information on joining 4-H, persons can contact their local Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Franklin County, 765-647-3511; or Ripley County, 812-689-6511.
Diane Raver can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.