4-H provides life-changing experiences

Sampson County 4-H is one of the best youth-oriented organizations around. Don’t believe it, spend a few minutes with a young person who has participated in the program for any length of time, listen to them and watch them.

From the way they conduct themselves to how they carry on a conversation, it is clear they are good communicators, better listeners and well-rounded individuals who represent us, their families and their hometowns well, no matter where you might find them.

All of their talents were on display last night during the organization’s annual awards banquet, an opportunity for the NC Cooperative Extension Service to recognize youngsters and 4-H supporters for a year’s worth of hard work.

But more than that, it was a night to showcase the plethora of talents these young people are honing through their respective clubs and the general programs offered by 4-H.

The 4-Hers deserved to be showcased.

These young people work hard, many even to overcome fears of public speaking, stepping out of their comfort zones to do things for which they never thought they’d find success. Yet they do, as the program and its leaders build self-confidence even as they are teaching life skills that will help each of these young people for the rest of their lives.

Don’t believe it? Just listen to any 4-H participant speak for just a few minutes about how the events associated with the program change their lives.

We won’t ever forget the words of 4-Her Amber Lackey, who earned the 2016 Senior 4-Her of the Year award, when she said: “I was a shy little girl that hid behind her mother’s leg, and now I’m up here giving presentations, doing interviews and multiple things in 4-H. It’s really helped me as a person to grow and mature.”

That shy little girl now speaks in front of civic organizations and non-profit organizations, relaying how 4-H made an impact on her life.

And Lakey’s story is just one of many that one can hear.

There’s just something about 4-H that brings out the best in our young people, and it is something we’ve not only supported through the years but encouraged parents and mentors to involve their children in year after year.

The programs are open to everyone, affordable for all and offer myriad opportunities that many young people might not find otherwise.

4-H is a global network of youth organizations whose mission is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development. Its name is a reference to the occurrence of the initial letter H four times in the organization’s original motto ‘head, heart, hands, and health’ which was later incorporated into the fuller pledge officially adopted in 1927.

The 4-H name represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands, and health; its goal is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach.

It’s easy to see all the stages of development as you watch a 4-Her grow, not only in knowledge but in character.

The organization has over 6.5 million members in the United States, from ages 5 to 21, in approximately 90,000 clubs. Sampson has always had a strong 4-H program, and we hope that continues.

The skills they learn will last them a lifetime, and the productive citizens they become because of the values they learn in 4-H will benefit not just each individual but the communities in which they live.

We applaud Cooperative Extension and all those who support 4-H in our county. We are glad they recognize, as we do, just how valuable it is to us and every single young person who gets involved.