By Mackenzie Felt, Senior 4-H Member, Dallas County Aggies
At 15 years old, I have experienced only a fraction of what the world has to offer. I am only a high school student. However, I already have learned some important life lessons through my participation in Iowa 4-H.
Membership in 4-H allows young people to develop the skills and confidence that will guide them through life and help mold them into active members of their communities. Youngsters can map out their life’s journey with help from 4-H. Youth work with adult volunteers on various projects that involve caring for the environment, growing plants, using computers, fixing and building various items, cooking, taking photographs, raising animals and much more. After completing a project, 4-H’ers develop a sense of pride and accomplishment in a job well done. 4-H members usually have too much fun with other kids at meetings, camps and fairs to realize that they are learning valuable life lessons.
Since the fourth grade, I have been actively involved with 4-H, showing cattle and hogs and participating in other projects that have been selected for the Iowa State Fair. I have served in numerous leadership positions in my club, ranging from president to treasurer. 4-H gave me the opportunity to experience how preparedness and organization can mean the difference between a successful and an absolutely boring meeting. I also received the important experience of speaking in front of people.
4-H goes beyond educating youth for their future. It empowers them to succeed in life, no matter what challenges they may face. Everything that is planned, delivered and practiced allows them to learn the importance of standing on their own two feet.
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”
Though only 33 words in length, the 4-H pledge means and says a great deal. It is recited at nearly every 4-H meeting across the country. The 4-H pledge states to think before you act, be loyal to friends and family, give to others and live to the best of your abilities. It is the motto of an organization that has helped me, and thousands of others, not only to become successful, but to become a better person.
I can’t forget the parents who also gave freely of their time, knowledge and experience to make the county fair and the 4-H program a success. These parents are directly involved at every stage of their child’s development in 4-H. They are seen as the primary educator in the development of the whole child. 4-H has brought my family closer together, making us work hard together on helping each other with projects.
4-H volunteers often say that 4-H is a lot of work. Of course, that comment is always accompanied by, “but it’s worth it.” I, too, believe that anything worthwhile is never easy. It takes hard work, dedication and perseverance to make things happen. The silver lining is watching and observing the actions by volunteers, supporters and 4-H members. You will see dedication and commitment, along with how generations benefit from each other.
To me, 4-H is about learning life lessons through experiences gained with interaction and involvement with other people. It is about making lifelong friends and memories. 4-H is more than what the words of the pledge describe. Going to camp, attending intermediate or senior trips, participating in county council, conducting community service, making things, attending meetings and sharing what has been learned are some of the things you can do in 4-H. Through their club experience, youth gain skills in decision making, cooperation and communication. If you are thinking about becoming part of 4-H, do it. Do it your best and never give up.
About the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program
4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth participates in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations, and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact your Iowa State University Extension county office at www.extension.iastate.edu/content/county-offices/ or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4H.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0775,