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10 Things 4-H Taught Me That Sports Couldn't

Every year the first week of October marks National 4-H Week. This week is a national celebration of the government's youth organization that serves over 1 million youths across our country. These youth are diving into programs developed by many educators and volunteers who dedicate their lives to improving the learning and growth of our nation's youth. This program brags some pretty amazing stats and outcomes of youth that stick with 4-H until graduation. 

"The structured learning, encouragement, and adult mentoring that young people receive through their participation in 4-H plays a vital role in helping them achieve success in life." -Tufts University

Through the research that Tufts University completed in 2002 with 7,000 youth across our nation, they found that 4-Her's are:

  • Four times more likely to contribute to their communities (grades 7-12)
  • Two times more likely to be civically active (grades 8-12)
  • Two times more likely to make healthier choices (grade 7)
  • Two times more likely to participate in science, engineering, and computer engineering programs during out-of-school time (grades 10-12); and
  • 4-H girls are two times more likely (grade 10) and nearly three times more likely (grade 12) to take part in science programs compared to girls in other out-of-school activities

Data courtesy of Tufts University and http://www.4-h.org/about/youth-development-research/positive-youth-devel...

After I have slathered on a good layer of stats for you, here is my personal 4-H experience and the things I learned through this wonderful organization that no sport could match. 4-H is something that I hold near and dear to my heart for a couple of reasons. I was a fifth-generation 4-Her and was in the SAME 4-H club as my great-grandmother (4-H was segregated back then and club names were very different). My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were volunteer leaders. I met my husband in 4-H, I have developed strong hobbies, and to this day, stay active in my community organizations.

In grade school I was active in agriculture. Showing animals, growing things, and being a leader for younger youth was my passion. Being actively involved in my county 4-H council, and Northeast Iowa District council, I finally made it as a member of the Iowa State 4-H Youth Council as a senior in high school. These experiences cultivated non-competitive, long-lasting friendships across the state along with some lifelong leadership skills, hobbies, and a passion for "Making the Best Better."

These are the 10 things 4-H taught me that no sport could:

10. Record keeping - Yes, least favorite but it's come in handy during tax time. End of story.

9. A passion for working with my hands - There really is nothing better than growing a garden and seeing the fruits of your labor at the end of the season. I learned how to preserve fruits and vegetables that I can enjoy all year long. (I made 200 jars of jam to hand out as wedding favors. [gasp!] Yes, this wouldn't have happened had I not been in 4-H.)

8. Being a caretaker - We need animals, and animals need us. All animals serve different purposes; it is up to us to be good stewards and to appreciate the things God has given us.

7. Noncompetitive friendships - Yes, including my husband. Solving problems together, working on a community service project, and reaching goals with friends is so much for fun and interesting. I will never forget the people in my club and councils; they are all people that helped shape me.

6. Following things through to completion - Seeing projects through to completion and knowing what you learned while working on a project is everything when you are sitting in front of a judge.

5. STEM Education (science, engineering, and technology)- 4-H has helped me as a person accept change and our ever-evolving world of technology. These are all important to help propel us into the 21st century.

4. A passion for making old things new - And knowing how to do it, the right way . . . 

3. Resiliency - I learned that what we do does not define who we are, what defines us is how we rise after falling. I learned this through working and showing calves for nine months each year: Sometimes the calves may not make weight or have diseases that set you back.

2. Leadership in real-world situations - You won't always lead a basketball team as an adult, but you will lead teams overcoming everyday problems and working together. This is where good social communication comes into play.

1. Excellent communication skills- I would NOT be the person I am today, nor would I have accomplished all that I have without my 4-H background. Working with people and through problems are my life's blood, and I wouldn't be able to accomplish these tasks without those skills in my back pocket.

Now go sign your kids up, contact your local University Extension Office, and watch your children bloom into wonderful young, responsible adults.

This post was originally published on my personal blog at fitandfarm.com

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