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Collegiate 4-H appeal is community service
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi State University students who did not participate in 4-H at the county level have a chance to join the collegiate version of an organization that nurtures leadership and teamwork.
MSU is one of many institutions of higher learning across the country that offers Collegiate 4-H. While interest in sustaining a chapter at MSU has waxed and waned over time, efforts to revitalize the club by state 4-H program leader Susan Holder, youth development staff and students have been successful within the last two years.
MSU Collegiate 4-H has more than 40 active, dues-paying members, and it also attracts other students who are curious to drop by. Some participants have been in 4-H since childhood while others have no previous experience with the organization. There is standing room only at regular chapter meetings the second Monday of each month.
“When I entered Mississippi State as a freshman, many of my friends were already in Collegiate 4-H,” said communication major Taryn Smith, 19, a sophomore from Memphis. “They talked about the fun they had and encouraged me to tag along, so I started attending the meetings.”
Smith had never been in 4-H. She took a chance that night and met other students who were drawn to the club for the same reason. Smith is now the club’s secretary.
“Collegiate 4-H fills a niche for individuals who haven’t yet found a group on campus,” said 4-H youth development specialist and chapter adviser John Long. “We say ‘you have a place here with us,’ and our students have responded.”
Students find the club’s informal atmosphere stimulates thinking, interaction and problem solving. Developing these skills helps members prepare themselves for future careers. Andrea Johnson, a 20-year-old Greenville sophomore majoring in business, said she wants to open a daycare center for children or a nursing home for seniors. Like Smith, she had never been a 4-H member but was intrigued.
“I thought about joining last year, but I did not follow through,” Johnson said. “I did join this fall, and it has been a great experience. It has helped me learn to pull different people together for a project. You would need to do that if you owned a business, which I plan to do after I graduate.”
Collegiate 4-H also stimulates the leadership potential of each member.
“Some of our officers come from the Day One Leadership Community, social organizations and honor societies, while others do not belong to any other campus organization,” Long said. “It’s encouraging to see these young people come from different areas of campus, get to know one another as they network and bond as a group.”
Aerospace engineering major Billy Hudson, 19, a sophomore from Greenwood, is parliamentarian of the chapter and takes this leadership role seriously. Hudson has been in 4-H since childhood.
“4-H gives you an opportunity to take responsibility,” Hudson said. “We have fun, and as a group, we share ideas, too. I hope we’ll have the wisdom to realize being a member of Collegiate 4-H was the most fun we ever had in college. I plan to remember the experience that way.”
Teamwork is an important aspect of Collegiate 4-H because the club’s focus is community service. Some of the service projects the group has undertaken include mentoring Palmer Home children, conducting drives for toys, clothes and food, and making special appearances at 4-H events.
“The focus of 4-H for elementary children and high school youth is personal development,” said MSU Collegiate 4-H president Terence Norwood, a 21-year-old senior from Harrisville. “You learn the importance of bettering yourself and taking responsibility as you work on individual 4-H projects and compete. When you join Collegiate 4-H, you put those concepts together and give back to others through service projects and mentoring.”
Norwood, who belonged to 4-H as a youth, is a communication major with an emphasis in secondary education. He said he feels his experiences in 4-H at both the local and collegiate levels have helped him be realistic with his expectations of becoming a teacher.
“My goal has been to develop a personal relationship with every member in our chapter,” Norwood said. “Hanging out, laughing and working with everyone on our service projects has allowed me to learn how to build relationships. I will need to know how to do that if I want to be an effective teacher.”
MSU students interested in Collegiate 4-H can contact Long at (662) 325-3350 for more information.