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Jameka Coffey Harkins, left, and her mother, Rose Coffey-Graham, represent two generations leading an Oktibbeha County 4-H Club. Adult volunteers are keys to the youth develop program’s success. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)

4-H youth program offers adults intangible rewards

MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Even adults benefit from involvement in 4-H, the largest youth development organization in the nation.

Rose Coffey Graham became a 4-H volunteer leader in 1982 because she saw a need for young people living in rural Oktibbeha County. She discovered much more.

"I love having opportunities to work with children but also with the other adults. We learn together and have so much fun," she said.

The Controller's Generation II 4-H Club focuses on the essential elements of 4-H, including belonging, independence, mastery and generosity.

“We try to give selflessly to all people. That commitment begins with our adult leaders and carries on to the 56 members of the club,” she said.

Graham’s club earned the 2016 AT&T 4-H Governor’s Award as the top club in the state. Members worked on many community service projects, including Relay for Life, Unity in the Community Prayer Breakfast, the Martin Luther King Jr. parade, a military family health fair and monthly trips to local nursing homes.

“The club’s success could not happen without our adult volunteer leaders and the youth members,” she said. “Everyone has a positive outlook as we work toward developing leadership skills and achieving personal growth.”

The general interest club focuses on healthy living, science, engineering, technology citizenship and partnership through community service.

Tammy Parker is the 4-H agent in Alcorn County for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. She said clubs also form around a variety of interest groups, including technology, cooking, sewing, shooting sports, horses, livestock, photography and leadership.

“If an adult has a special skill or interest to share with the next generation, we can probably develop a club,” Parker said. “Being a volunteer leader is very rewarding -- knowing you are helping youth and your community.”

Parker and other 4-H agents around the state work hard to make residents aware of this youth program designed to make a difference in their counties.

“We always need more adult volunteers willing to share their time and knowledge through the 4-H Youth Development Program. It takes a lot of people to keep successful programs going,” she said.

Parker is helping to organize the Mississippi 4-H Volunteer Leaders’ annual conference Feb. 24-25 at MSU. The variety of interests is evident with the 20 workshop opportunities on the agenda.

“Social media, livestock judging, icebreaker and game ideas, robotics, food preservation, engineering and technology, and building leadership skills are some of the topics,” she said. “We will also have sessions to help leaders learn how to work with our youngest group called Cloverbuds, who are ages 5-7 years.”

Some of the state’s most popular interest groups, such as robotics, are not available in counties without adult volunteers willing to lead them.

“One of the beauties of 4-H is that leaders learn right along with the youth, especially in some of the technology projects,” Parker said. “We have adult training opportunities and curriculum to help volunteers lead their clubs.”

Adults with an interest in volunteering to lead 4-H clubs should contact the local county Extension office.

Released: January 10, 2017
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