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Youth Learn From Summer 4-H Programs
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Parents and youth who think school is the only place to learn need to think again. The Mississippi 4-H program offers a wide variety of learning experiences this summer.
"Our summer calendar is full of fun camps, conferences and workshops on many topics," said Sandy Slocum, extension 4-H associate. "With these programs we want to educate kids about specific subjects, and also teach them valuable life skills. These events are enjoyable, and youth look forward to coming to them year after year."
Annual State 4-H Congress, scheduled for June 8 to 10, allows students to participate in several workshops and contests, such as public speaking and visual presentations.
"The speaking and presentation contests help young people develop strong communication skills," Slocum said. "They learn to organize their thoughts and present them to an audience."
Judging contests are another option for youth attending Congress and other summer programs. 4-H judging contests include wildlife, food products, clothing and forestry.
We have many different categories for judging contests because everyone has different interests," Slocum said. "Participating in judging contests helps youth learn to make responsible, informed decisions and to defend them logically."
4-H livestock programs also offer many learning experiences.
A horse camp and a dairy camp, both held in Verona, allow 4-H'ers to bring their own animals to the camp. Working with the animals, campers learn management and feeding practices, and grooming, showmanship and judging skills.
"Camps are great for teaching youth to manage and exhibit their animals, but they also help kids learn to make friends and to be away from home," Slocum said
District and state horse shows keep 4-H'ers busy in July. Each district will hold its show July 9, 10 or 11, and the state show is in Jackson July 15 to 18.
"Last year we had more than 540 4-H'ers exhibit 730 horses at the state show," Slocum said. "The combined total for the district shows was about twice that. This is a big event for the Mississippi 4-H program."
In addition to the horse shows, members also can participate in various contests including public speaking on an equine topic, horse photography and a horse quiz bowl. Junior members, ages 8 to 13, have their contests at the district show, while contests for seniors, ages 14 to 19, are held at the state show.
"The contests make a great teaching tool," Slocum said. "In preparing for the contests, kids learn about the subject matter. From competing in the contest, they learn how to win or lose graciously. Those are important skills for life."
4-H members can participate in several trips this summer. More than 60 youth will travel to Washington, D.C., for the Citizenship Washington Focus in late June. Students will attend workshops on citizenship, leadership and other topics.
On the Mississippi Cooperative trip, officers and contest winners selected at Congress will tour several cooperative businesses to learn how they work, Slocum said. Students then will work in groups to form their own cooperatives for more experience. Students will also compete for scholarships.
4-H activities extend beyond the state level. Winners of the state forestry judging contest will advance to the national invitational, and Mississippi will send 40 horses and their owners to compete in the Southern Regional 4-H Horse Championships in Little Rock, Ark.
For more information on these or other 4-H programs, contact the local county 4-H agent.