We asked 4-H members and leaders the things for which they were thankful. Their answers make us smile during this time of Thanksgiving.
1. Life Skills
Take your pick which skill you most attribute to your 4-H experience. Public speaking. Organization. Time Management. Teamwork. Problem solving. Recordkeeping. Teachers and employers say they can pick out employees with 4-H experience just by their work ethic and personal integrity. 4-H did that, or so our members say. More than anything else, 4-H empowers and prepares young people for a life of success. "Thank you, 4-H, for teaching me integrity, patience, and the value of hard work." –Renae Spannagel, Camarge Champs 4-H of Moultri-Douglas 4-H. Age 18.
2. Joyful Living
Oh, it was expressed in many different ways, but the bottom line is, 4-H makes people happy. Through their accomplishments, 4-H members believe in themselves. They build bonds of friendship which last a lifetime. They travel to new, exciting places. They spend time together as a family. They laugh, a lot. "Thank you, 4-H, for giving me joy." –Quentin Meredith, Watseka Wild Clovers 4-H of Iroquois County, Age 11.
3. Caring Leaders
We never forget them. 4-H leaders are like second parents who may not tell you to clean your room, but will hound you to finish your record book. More than 15,000 adults assist with the Illinois 4-H program each year. Some come for a year; others stay for a lifetime. "Thank you, 4-H, for all the volunteers who work to put on activities and workshops and help with projects. Thank you to my former leader, Eleanor Markwell, who has volunteered for over 50 years! She inspired me to become a leader." –Angela Zellers, Morriah Go-Getters 4-H of Clark County. Adult.
4. Paths That Lead to Better Futures
4-H is a safe place for youth to explore and discover. We know that 17 percent of 4-H members already have a career related to their project when they graduate from high school. "Thank you, 4-H, for helping me develop the skillsets to prepare me for a job and for college. Thank you for your scholarship generosity. Thank you for building tomorrow's leaders." –Michelle Gorrell, Triple T 4-H of Clark County. Age 19.
4-H clubs create opportunities for youth to practice service. In the rush of daily living, we sometimes get so busy doing for ourselves; we forget to do for others. 4-H forces us to stop and intentionally commit to service projects so that a generous spirit becomes our true nature. Research shows that 4-H members are four times more liking to be involved in their communities than their peers. "Thank you, 4-H, for showing me that there is always a way to make a difference." –Katy Beaber, Liberty 4-H of Bureau County. Age 13.
Exploration takes courage, and 4-H builds confidences which allow youth to step out into the unknown. Whether it's trying a new project or traveling away from home for the first time, 4-H instills an adventurous nature in members who feel supported by caring leaders and staff. "Thank you, 4-H, for helping me express my personal style and helping me find what I'm good at." –Liz Reardanz, Woodworth Kountry Klovers of Iroquois County. Age 12.
7. Friendships and family
4-H is all about relationships. In 4-H, boys and girls learn together, and families are welcome at every gathering. The hard work of showing at the fair doesn't seem so bad when your friends are all there with you. Shared interests create lifelong bonds of friendship. Winning is good, but seeing friends win is even better. 4-H members know the best part of the day isn't receiving the championship trophy, but helping an 8-year-old reach their goal. "Thank you for being so nice and being a second family to me." –Sophie Barnhart, MCML 4-H of Union County. Age 9
Nothing teaches responsibility like getting up at 6 a.m. every morning to feed livestock or being in charge of a 4-H field trip. 4-H members know that if they don't do their work, no one else will. It begins with simple tasks, such as bringing refreshments or welcoming visitors. Over time, the tasks get harder and the consequences for failing grow. Employers want workers who complete tasks and are responsible for the consequences. "Thank you, 4-H, for teaching me to never give up!" –Autumn Dottie, Guilford Gainers 4-H of Winnebago County. Age 12.
9. Solid Foundations
4-H is built on the solid foundation of research-based information which local staff turn into hands-on learning activities. No here-today, gone-tomorrow fads. No tricks. No fake news, only rock-solid information you can trust from people you trust. Our foundation is the research of University of Illinois College of ACES. "Thank you, 4-H, for helping me learn new skills and discover new interests." –Kaitlin Udelhofen, Leroy Commandoes 4-H of Boone County, Age 16.
4-H feels like home. Once you pledge your head to clearer thinking and your heart to greater loyalty, you enter a family 6 million strong. You understand what it means to live each day making the best in you better. "Thank you for parents that encouraged me to join 4-H and the many years of being a 4-H Family." –Georgia Green, Atlanta Town & Country 4-H Club of Logan County, Age 76 and 45 years as a leader.
4-H changes people.
"Thank you, 4-H, for making me a better me." – Alicyn Olson, Liberty 4-H of Bureau County. Age 18.
"Thank you, 4-H, for teaching me to be fair, strong, and not self-centered." –Grace Stapf, Prairie Kids 4-H of Piatt County. Age 13.
"Thank you, 4-H, for helping me learn about my mistakes from my projects." –Audri Green, Prairie Pals 4-H of Crawford County. Age 9.
"Thank you, 4-H, for teaching me to do stuff without complaining." –Karli Yotter, Bunker Hill Livewires 4-H of Macoupin County. Age 13.
"4-H can lead you to the stars. I was a 10-year 4-Her. I am a contract manager for Boeing. My project is the space mission going to Mars. Never did I think my aerospace project would actually lead me to Mars." – Bill Hallett, Liberty Hill Rangers 4-H of Cumberland County. Adult.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager
Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.