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Summer activities round out 4-H year
MISSISSIPPI STATE – This summer’s jam-packed 4-H schedule finishes out another full year of activities for the youth development program of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Close to 96,000 Mississippi youth are involved in 4-H this year. They learn, participate and compete in a variety of areas. 4-H’ers can be involved in ATV safety training and shooting sports, grilling and food safety, livestock shows and forestry events, weeds and seeds, robotics, photography, fashion and numerous other program areas.
“4-H is a comprehensive program that offers growth opportunities that put the heads, hearts, hands and health of Mississippi’s youth to work learning and applying the essential elements of the 4-H program: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity,” said Paula Threadgill, acting state 4-H director. “The 4-H program is committed to helping build the future leaders of our state and nation.”
Rae Oldham, 4-H curriculum and professional development coordinator, said while many 4-H activities culminate in state or national events, they all begin at the county level.
“The Extension Service has staff in each Mississippi county that support the efforts and programming of 4-H,” Oldham said. “We have 1,145 community-based 4-H clubs in the state. Some are affiliated with schools or communities, and others are built around involvement in a certain activity, such as horse riding, shooting sports or robotics.”
In addition to teaching youth the basics of an activity or specialty field, 4-H offers many opportunities for the youth to show off their skills in events and competitions. Winners at the county level can often proceed to regional, state or national competitions.
State 4-H Congress, a three-day event held this year May 30-June 1, brought more than 500 youth ages 14 to 18 to MSU’s campus to compete in the subject areas they worked on all year.
“4-H Congress is an opportunity of a lifetime for some Mississippi youth,” Threadgill said. “To visit a major university campus for three days is something most of our youth never get to experience. While they’re on campus, the 4-H’ers compete in events related to projects that teach skills and life-long learning.”
John Long, 4-H youth development specialist, said state youth will participate in several shooting sports events over the summer. The Mississippi team will compete in the national 4-H shooting sports invitational in Nebraska in mid-June, and there will be a Mississippi 4-H shooting sports invitational in mid-July.
“The state invitational is the culmination of years of preparation for a lot of our senior 4-H’ers,” Long said. “Here, the youth can showcase their skills in a competition that somewhat simulates a national competition in its increased difficulty level.”
Long said the structure of the shooting sports events has been changed in recent years to allow youth to become more versatile, which helps them as they continue to develop improved critical thinking skills.
Harvey Gordon, 4-H volunteer development coordinator, oversees the cook-off contests, adult volunteer training sessions and the 4-H Cooperative Business Leadership Conference, which is an add-on award for 4-H seniors winning first place in their state-level competitions.
Gordon said three different cook-off contests will bring together several hundred youth to cook pork, beef and poultry. Cook-off competitions will be held in June in Coffeeville and Hattiesburg.
“In these cook-off competitions, the youth will have the opportunity to display their knowledge and skills in grilling,” Gordon said. “They will also have an opportunity to use their decision-making skills in safely preparing and managing meats.”
The 4-H Cooperative Business Leadership Conference takes about 70 outstanding youth on several stops around the state as they experience first-hand the skills needed to organize, manage and market business cooperatives. They also have a brief opportunity to engage in the legislative process surrounding cooperatives.
District 4-H Project Achievement Days are held in the summer, and these events give younger 4-H’ers the opportunity to present the work they have done over the past year in a particular subject area. Other 4-H summer activities include the national forestry invitational, national wildlife habitat evaluation contest, a technology conference and ag camp days at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum.
To learn more about the 4-H Youth Development program, contact the local county Extension Service office or visit http://extension.msstate.edu/4-h.