The positive youth development activities of 4-H uniquely prepare young people for success. All 4-H programs focus on active involvement and quality experiences that stimulate lifelong learning of values and skills, and Ohio is home to one of the largest and best 4-H programs in the nation.
Annually, more than 250,000 young Ohioans gain leadership, citizenship, math, science, communications, and other life skills as they "learn by doing" in 4-H clubs, in-school and after-school activities, and summer programs. Add in 4-H camp, project judging, county fair and state fair competition, international travel and hosting experiences -- just to name a few other activities, and there is much going on in Ohio 4-H.
More than 22,000 adult volunteers and several thousand youth volunteers regularly give their time, energy, and talents to work with 4-H members.
The 4-H motto is "To Make the Best Better." Our Extension professionals are terrific, but they cannot do this alone. Dedicated 4-H volunteers and committed parents are absolutely essential to the success of Ohio 4-H. It's one thing to participate in an activity; it's another to truly learn while participating -- and our volunteers help make that happen for 4-H members. More than 22,000 adult volunteers and several thousand youth volunteers regularly give their time, energy, and talents to work with 4-H members. As they share their own knowledge, experiences, and skills, our volunteers build mentoring relationships with 4-Hers that enrich the experience for all involved.
At least 2.1 million volunteer hours given each year
Since 1902, parents and volunteers have helped the 4-H program develop successful leaders, build young minds, and set the path for 4-Hers to take the world by storm.
The success of 4-H in Ohio is due in part to the longevity of our volunteers. The level of time and talent contributed is astonishing. As Tom Archer, assistant director for Ohio 4-H youth development, pointed out this spring, a recent study determined that the median time commitment per volunteer is six hours per week during the summer months. If we count just four busy months per year, that's six hours x 16 weeks x 22,000 adult volunteers = 2,112,000 volunteer hours minimum.
In keeping with 4-H's focus on Head, Heart, Hands, and Health, our volunteers are always looking to improve their skills as well. In March, more than 1,650 adults and teens attended the Ohio Volunteer Conference and Ohio Teen Conference. Hands-on educational sessions provided continuing education about 4-H projects, processes, and best practices to enhance the work of our volunteers.
At the Bob Evans Farms 4-H Volunteer Recognition Luncheon during the March conferences, four new Ohio 4-H Hall of Fame members -- Robert Joseph, Leland Knauf, Vernon Sloan, William Thurston -- were inducted. A Volunteer of the Year and an Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer were presented with awards sponsored by Monsanto and the National 4-H Council, and the long tenures of many Ohio 4-H volunteers were recognized. In fact, 70 people were recognized for 50 or more years of service, including one "young lady" who has volunteered for 72 years! Lists of previous award winners and information about the 2014 event are posted here.
Camp and fair season underway
Volunteers also help coordinate and conduct a myriad of summer 4-H activities. Right now, Ohio 4-H is in the midst of county fair season. At any county fair, visitors will see the tremendous variety of 4-H projects presented in various displays and livestock shows. 4-H members can also participate in state fair activities. Many outstanding local 4-H project winners move on to judging competitions at the Ohio State Fair (held this year July 24-Aug 4).
Summer is also the height of the Ohio 4-H camping season. County 4-H campers are engaged in activities at our 13 camp facilities around the state, plus they get to interact with their peers at state-level special interest camps such as Leadership Camp, Sea Camp, and Space Adventure Camp.
Operation: Military Kids also has troop and family camps, HERO camps for kids in military families, and a variety of teen camps. See the complete list here.
Ohio 4-H volunteers have differing interests, skills, and abilities. There is no specific age requirement to be a 4-H volunteer; youth volunteers are important partners in Ohio 4-H programs. There are several ways to volunteer and different levels of involvement. More information is posted on the Ohio 4-H website.
-- Cheryl Buck, OSU Extension