Once a 4-Her, always a 4-Her. According to the Illinois 4-H Alumni Association, 25 million Americans share the unique bond of being a 4-H alum, each with a unique story. Whether it's spending time at 4-H camp, conquering public speaking fears, leading as a club officer, traveling the world as an exchange member, competing at the county fair, or working with 4-H club leaders; 4-H experiences played a part in personal development. Being a 4-H member is an unforgettable experience.
“4-H alumni give back in so many wonderful ways and want kids to have the same great experience they had as a 4-Her,” stated Cathy Ludolph, Peoria County 4-H program coordinator. In 2019, the 4-H program serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties surveyed its 4-H alumni about current and past involvement. Over 170 people responded with details and memories about their time as young people in 4-H. Of those that responded:
- 67% indicated that they were still involved in 4-H in some way.
- 40% of respondents were active volunteers, with an additional 11% having volunteered in the past. (This far exceeds the volunteer rate of the general public, which was just under 25% in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
- When these volunteering alumni were asked about the duration of their service, they most often indicated 15 years or more as
4-H club leaders, judges, superintendents, or mentors.
When asked about the impact 4-H had on their lives, alumni laid out a wide array of benefits. However, respondents most commonly indicated that 4-H helped to build life skills, such as responsibility, confidence, a good work ethic, and leadership.
“One of the wisest young people that I have come to know always tells people to be the example that you needed when you were younger,” stated Peoria County 4-H livestock judging coach and 4-H alumni Kristi Smith. “I think that is the best way to describe what we do as alumni when we give back to 4-H. When you look back on your 4-H career, you also think about the friends you made and the people who were your mentors. It was amazing to be enrolled in 4-H, but I believe that it is equally amazing to continue to stay involved with 4-H. My last year in
4-H, there were a lot of tears, I didn't want it to be over. Now that it is ‘over’ I have the opportunity to realize that it really isn't over, it was just a new beginning of the impact that I could make on other 4-Hers.”
Assistant 4-H club leader Sarah Stevens explained, “4-H has made me the person I am and has impacted my life in a positive way. Through
4-H, I have gained leadership, public speaking, and life skills. Once a 4-H member and now an alumnus, I am thankful for the opportunity to give back as a volunteer. I want to help make 4-H an experience where younger members can grow within themselves and continue to ‘Make the Best Better.’”
MEET THE AUTHOR
Cathy Ludolph served as Peoria 4-H program coordinator from 2000 through 2021.
ABOUT EXTENSION SNAPSHOTS
Extension Snapshots are monthly impact reports that share the stories of our programs in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. To have them delivered to you directly sign up using our E-blast registration.