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4-H youth give back at holidays
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The holiday season reminds many people to give to others and perform service for communities and the needy, but at least one youth organization practices these principles year-round.
4-H is the youth development program of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. 4-H strives to improve the quality of life for Mississippi youth by developing their potential and providing hands-on educational programs. Program priorities, delivered through local county Extension offices by volunteer leaders, include leadership development, life skills training and developing positive self-esteem.
Marcus Davis, 4-H youth development agent in Warren County, said citizenship training plays a significant role in 4-H.
“We teach citizenship to our kids so they can become productive people in our community,” Davis said. “Citizenship is seeing needs and doing things that make life better, not only for yourself, but for others as well.”
Davis said community service is part of the foundation of 4-H.
“Being involved in community service shows young people the importance of helping others. Some people who need help can’t help themselves,” Davis said. “Community service shows firsthand how a community works, what the community needs and what is not working in the community so volunteers can help change it.”
Susan Holder, 4-H youth development program leader, said the 4-H symbol of the green four-leaf clover symbolizes the head, heart, hands and health. These, in turn, represent the four-fold development of youth.
“With their hearts, 4-Hers are concerned about the welfare of others and accept the responsibility of citizenship and developing attitudes and values of service to others,” Holder said. “They use their hands to learn new skills and develop pride and respect for their own work.”
In Starkville, about 50 4-H youth will ring the bells outside Wal-Mart for the Salvation Army. LaTrell Stokes, Oktibbeha County 4-H youth agent, said the youth will do this on two Saturdays in December.
“This is a community service we do every year. The youth ask for it and love helping the community,” Stokes said. “This teaches them to be responsible and caring people. As our motto says, we are helping ‘make the best better.’ You never know what will happen and when you might need someone else’s help in the future.”
While the 4-H youth are visible ringing the Salvation Army bells in December, Stokes said the county’s 4-H clubs do service projects each month that vary from cleaning homes of the elderly to visiting nursing homes, volunteering at the animal shelter or collecting food or necessities for the needy.
“4-H provides many community service and other activities all year long that build leadership qualities in youth,” Stokes said. “I try to teach my youth to never give up on their dream. I encourage them to try new things and learn to be independent.”
For more information on Mississippi 4-H, contact the local county Extension office.