Category Archives: 4-H and Youth

Civics comes to life at 4-H Day

4-H members and volunteers at the annual 4-H Day at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

4-H members and volunteers at the annual 4-H Day at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

More than 1,000 4-H members and volunteers visited Richmond in February to meet their state representatives and learn about Virginia’s legislative branch of government. Virginia 4-H has celebrated 4-H Day at the State Capitol for 21 years.

Virginia 4-H sponsors the annual trip for 4-H’ers across the commonwealth to express their gratitude to state delegates and senators who support 4-H youth development programs.

“The opportunity to watch our delegates in action is a real learning experience for our students,” said Chris Lichty, senior 4-H Extension specialist in Pulaski County. “They were in awe of seeing the discussion on the floor of legislative issues and how intense the debates got between members and delegates from the House and Senate.”

“This trip is an opportunity for lawmakers to put faces to the programming that the funding provides for young people all over the commonwealth.” said Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H Youth Development with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Over 214,000 youth are enrolled in Virginia 4-H’s hands-on educational programs. Throughout the commonwealth, more than 12,700 adults and teens volunteer their time and energy to mentor and teach 4-H members about science and technology, career and economic education, citizenship, communication and expressive arts, family sciences, leadership, and other topics. In addition, there are six 4-H educational centers that conduct residential camping programs for more than 10,700 young people annually.

Virginia 4-H engages children and teens ages 5 to 19 in hands-on educational programs and activities designed to help them gain knowledge, life skills, and attitudes that will further their development as self-directed, contributing, and productive members of society.

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4-H builds communities around the world

Virginia Cooperative Extension senior 4-H youth development agent Ruth Wallace (left) poses with a group of children and adults in Senegal. In March of this year, Extension and the 4-H Positive Youth Development in Agriculture Program traveled to the West African nation to scale up programming in the region. Reggie Morris, 4-H youth development Extension agent in Alexandria, Virginia, is pictured in the second row, second from right.

Virginia Cooperative Extension senior 4-H youth development agent Ruth Wallace (left) poses with a group of children and adults in Senegal. In March of this year, Extension and the 4-H Positive Youth Development in Agriculture Program traveled to the West African nation to scale up programming in the region. Reggie Morris, 4-H youth development Extension agent in Alexandria, Virginia, is pictured in the second row, second from right.

In a Senegalese village, children grow vegetable seedlings and organize traditional wrestling events as fundraisers in a positive youth development initiative modeled after Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program.

At the Ndoumbouji primary school, the main focus is gardening.

“The teachers told us that every break they have, the students run to the garden,” said Ozzie Abaye, a Virginia Tech professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. “The group wants to try to expand the garden project outside of the campus.”

Through activities such as gardening and leadership training, 4-H’s international programming has helped to improve thousands of lives around the globe.

Kathleen Jamison, professor emerita and 4-H youth development specialist, and her team completed training workshops in March designed to scale up the programs’ outreach efforts throughout Senegal.

“4-H provides opportunities for younger members of the community to express themselves and be heard,” Jamison said. “This is important since young people continue to be an effective way to spread knowledge about new technologies and approaches to problem-solving in their own communities.”

4-H programming has been changing the lives of young people from the Dominican Republic and Virginia for more than a decade.

Community members of Domingo Maiz, Dominican Republic, asked the Shenandoah County 4-H group to paint a 4-H clover on the village’s mural to recognize the group’s community service work with local children.

Community members of Domingo Maiz, Dominican Republic, asked the Shenandoah County 4-H group to paint a 4-H clover on the village’s mural to recognize the group’s community service work with local children.

“I realized my urge to help others, my passion to work with kids, and discovered a sense of leadership that went far beyond my previous experience,” said Julie Billingsley, a 4-H’er from Highland County who participated in the service-learning project.

Carol Nansel and Christine Hodges, 4-H Extension agents from Shenandoah and Alleghany counties, organize the annual weeklong trips to the island where younger children participate in day camps for two days, while teens interact with each other through service projects that teach principles of environmental sustainability and leadership.

“Each year I watch the 4-H’ers discover a culture and language different from their own,” said Nansel. “I see them learn ways to communicate with Spanish speakers when words fail them, and I see their eyes opened to the world that exists outside their comfort zone.”

Glenda Snyder, senior Extension agent emerita, introduced CHARACTER COUNTS! — an education program developed by the California-based Josephson Institute of Ethics — to schools in Brazil.

Snyder and a local school principal trained 80 school and community representatives, and CHARACTER COUNTS! was implemented as a pilot program in Brazilian schools to help at-risk young people, some whose parents were incarcerated. Officials reported positive results such as improved student conduct, decreased violence, more respectful behavior, and increased parent volunteerism.

The relationship with educators in Brazil has grown and developed over the past nine years as Extension faculty members have trained more than 1,000 Brazilian teachers, principals, and community leaders, impacting 70,000 students annually.

“We’ve got over 100 years of experience in youth outreach,” said Snyder. “Our expertise has been utilized across the commonwealth — and across the globe.”

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