How 4-H Shaped Me
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“I just want to stay at home, I don’t want to go anywhere mom!” “Just one more game, I am almost done!” These may be among the statements that a parent hears from their children. If I am being completely honest, I have said a variation as well to my parents when I was younger. I may have been lazy at times, but when living on a farm, if the words, “I’m bored,” came out of someone’s mouth, “Well, I have something you can do if that’s the case,” followed shortly after. As a child, I didn’t appreciate the importance of participating in the programs available to me. Now I want to share my story on why being active in extracurriculars greatly impacted my life and perceptions, with the hindsight of an older version of that child.
Not only from my experiences but from an expert’s opinion as well, getting children involved in extracurriculars is developmentally beneficial. According to The Importance of Socializing for Kids, written by the Early Learning Center for Kids, “Socializing at a young age is important because your child will develop the skills needed to help with healthy development and relationships…” To be more specific, children develop communication skills, confidence, empathy, sharing skills and most importantly, they learn how to make friends. Getting kids involved in after school activities such as sports, clubs or educational programs are all great ways to socialize children at an early age. Now, speaking from experience, it can be intimidating at first being around new people, especially for a kid, but once I jumped into action, it was amazing; as I am sure it will be for your child as well.
I think a lot of families learned through COVID that having a completely sheltered, all virtual life was hard. They noticed that many kids struggled academically and socially. For me, the week before the shutdown in March was the most incredible, dare I say life-changing experience. I attended a 4-H livestock program called the Perry and Dorris Beef Leadership Institute. Not only did I learn a lot from the speakers and workshops, but the group of people I met have turned out to be the most incredible friends. These were people who were a part of my childhood in agriculture, but I never really met or got to know them on a personal level. It turned out we had so many things in common; from similar backgrounds to goals. It is 2.5 years later and even though we all live hours apart, most of us are going to the same colleges and furthering our education in various agricultural fields together. The funniest thing about the entire program was the first year, when every single one of us expressed how displeased we were with the fact that our parents were trying to motivate us to go to the leadership institute. Just by going on a two hour long van ride together, we turned from bored and miserable to ecstatic and thankful to our parents for pushing us to go. I learned by that single experience how important opportunities are and why it is pivotal to take those chances when they are presented. I never would have had that incredible experience if I stayed at home and kept from pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
To expand that, take a moment to think back to childhood. Think about what games everyone played during recess and after school. What fun and creative hide-n-seek, tag or sports games did you come up with? Think about how reading was the best way to learn something new. My parents believed in going outside, exploring, and making me try new things. Attending 4-H livestock competitions, showing sheep and cattle, and participating in public speaking opportunities pushed me to be who I am today. Not only did I try all of these new things, but I gained confidence in myself and began to trust my own judgment. Now, I am an extroverted, hard-working college student who has goals and ambitions to pursue a career in the agriculture field and I couldn’t be happier.
If you want your child to have the opportunity to explore the programs that helped me grow, contact Lee County 4-H to learn more! Not only is this an organization that accepts everyone from all backgrounds, but it allows for kids to get back to the basics of interacting face to face. From summer camps to weekly after school clubs and programs year-round. 4-H can not only open a world of opportunity for middle school and highschoolers but it has cloverbud programs for ages 5-7 too! There are a multitude of opportunities and we would love to share them. To find out more about all the amazing things that Lee County Extension has to offer go to 4-H Summer Fun.
Hailee Bissett is the summer intern at North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County. She is currently attending NC State University in Raleigh to obtain a Bachelors in Agricultural Business Management in hopes to keep working with N.C. Cooperative Extension to help bring back more interest and education in agriculture.