It’s often been said knowledge is power, and South Carolina 4-H Youth Development believes in the power of young people — and brings opportunity to glean that knowledge directly to kids from all backgrounds.
The week of Oct. 2-8 marked National 4-H Week in the U.S. to highlight the remarkable 4‑H youth in communities around the country and showcase the incredible experiences that 4‑H offers young people as the nation’s larget youth development organization.
In South Carolina, Clemson University Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development uses a learn-by-doing approach to help youth gain the knowledge and skills to be responsible, productive and contributing members of society.
South Carolina 4-H Assistant Director Ashley Burns said the week was a time to recognize the more than 6 million young people nationwide that 4-H is empowering with skills for a lifetime.
“This year’s theme of Opportunity for All,” Burns said. “4-H is a place for youth of many backgrounds to come together and find their spark. Our members are developing skills that will help them lead for a lifetime. We celebrate our passionate parents, tireless volunteers, and dedicated professionals who create a space for young people to belong and succeed all year long.”
And the success of those young people is really the key to it all.
At S.C. 4-H State Congress this summer, for example, Maggie Thomas of Dorchester County, told her tale of spending more than a decade in 4-H after her family began a club in a rural community in St. George, S.C.
As the outgoing State 4-H Teen Council President, Thomas, who has been accepted into nursing school this fall at Anderson University, told the future young leaders in the organization that her 4-H experience has taught her the value of moments — big and small.
“Everyone is always so anxious to race to the end, to find the happily-ever-after, but 4-H helped me to realize that it’s not always about the happy ending, sometimes it’s about the story that takes you there,” Thomas said.
Thomas challenged her fellow 4-H’ers to “become the authors of your own stories.”
“Life is a moment that we only get once, and I hope you choose to live it to the absolute fullest,” she said.
And when it comes to celebrating 4-H successes in South Carolina, one would be remiss not to mention the 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program celebrating its fifth anniversary … albeit 1 year late due to the pandemic.
Since 2016, the 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program has been dedicated to equipping middle and high school students to influence the state of South Carolina as better leaders, positive role models and engaged citizens.
The late Sen. Clementa Pinckney, of course, was among nine African Americans killed by white supremacist Dylan Roof during Bible study at the Charleston AME church where he was the senior pastor. While his life came to an end on June 17, 2015, Pinckney’s passion for leadership lives on though the namesake program.
And while it was not able to formally celebrate its fifth anniversary last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pinckney Program did hold three events this summer — two at Clemson University’s Hendrix Center and another in Aiken — to recognize its success.
And the program’s success is not just a buzzword. It has served more than 2,000 youth in South Carolina and, this year, had four valedictorians at high schools across the state. But perhaps its most significant impact has been driving young people to be leaders in their communities.
“The 4-H program has impacted my plans for the future by encouraging me to continue being a voice for those around me,” said De’Quae Craft, a student at Dreher High School in Columbia. “I want to go into some type of public work where I can bring about change. … When we went to Washington, D.C., we met with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who was ready to offer an internship to any of us upon graduation to see firsthand how being a leader and bringing about change works for a huge politician on a day-to-day basis. I plan to take him up on this opportunity! Thanks to 4-H for helping me to make such a connection.”
And no showcase of the experiences 4-H offers young people would be complete without mention of the recently announced $5 million grant from Google.org to the National 4-H Council, aimed at expanding computer science skills and education to underserved youth across the country
“To date, we have served over 3,000 youth with our computer science (CS) programs,” Burns said. “We look forward to making the most of this investment by continuing and expanding CS programming efforts and engaging with the new National 4-H Summit, Clover and PYD Academy experiences.”
As for the National 4-H Week celebration itself, the week featured daily themes on the weekdays: from Make it happen Monday where youth were asked to complete a random act of kindness to Find your spark Friday, where 4-H’ers were encouraged to talk about their favorite project area.
More information on S.C. 4-H Youth Development and ways to get involved are available here: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/4h/.
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