School teams with group to start 4-H club



When entities come together for a common cause, good things can happen.

That was the case with the establishment of the Medora Makers 4-H Club.

Medora Community School Corp. and its Reach for a Star after-school program teamed with Jackson County 4-H to start the group, which is the only school-based 4-H club in the county.

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To give the club a boost, the Owen-Carr Township Community Fund recently donated $3,000.

That paid for 4-H program fees for the students, refreshments for special club meetings, project supplies for club meetings, supplies for youth to complete projects for the Jackson County Fair, recognition and awards for club members, startup materials and T-shirts for members and adult volunteers.

“It’s just a good collaboration between the after-school program, school and 4-H coming together to bring all of our resources together,” said club leader Ashley Kincaid.

She was hired as a teacher in June, and since she has an agriculture education degree, school leaders wanted to incorporate some of that into the school.

They decided the first step would be to mesh the 4-H club with the after-school program to give the kids more opportunities to be involved.

Heather VonDielingen, Jackson County 4-H youth development educator, spoke with Kincaid and Kim Zuber with the after-school program to get the club started, and they set up a meeting and got right to work.

Kincaid, Zuber and Shannon Hunsucker agreed to be volunteer leaders of the club and went through an application process, a background check and training.

VonDielingen then researched potential avenues of funding for the club. That’s how she found out about the Owen-Carr Township Community Fund, which is administered by the Community Foundation of Jackson County with the help of an 11-member board made up of residents from Owen and Carr townships.

It is funded with donations from Rumpke, which operates the Medora Landfill. Donations to the fund are based on the tonnage of trash processed at the landfill.

Elizabeth Bowlen, a member of the fund’s board, said it’s used to help finance projects or groups in the two townships.

“We support activities and groups that promote the environment and community,” Bowlen said. “We have given funds to purchase new equipment for the volunteer fire departments, uniforms for the Medora school cheerleaders, sound equipment for Medora Goes Pink, lights for the baseball field and many other local projects.”

She said the board saw the importance of starting a 4-H club.

“We all love 4-H in our group and wanted to see the kids have a chance to participate in a great program that teaches them useful information and skills,” Bowlen said. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun. Glad to share this opportunity with them. I never had a chance to join 4-H when I was in school, something I really regret, so this personally means a lot to me that we could help out.”

VonDielingen helped guide the leaders and school principal through the grant-writing process, complete paperwork necessary to charter a 4-H club and create a plan for the 2017-18 program year.

She and several 4-H volunteers then attended the school’s fall festival Oct. 26 to introduce kids and parents to 4-H and offer a few activities.

That night, 18 youth signed up for the club. That number has since grown to 35.

“There was much excitement in the air as youth got registered for 4-H and took home yard signs to promote 4-H in the community,” VonDielingen said. “It has been so exciting to get this off the ground at Medora.”

Kincaid said she is happy with the number of students in the club.

“From my own 4-H experience, I come from a community where 4-H has been around since the beginning, so you do 4-H because Grandma did 4-H and Mom did 4-H and Dad did 4-H. Everybody did 4-H, so it’s just kind of what you did,” she said. “But to be in a place where 4-H is different for a lot of these kids, they’ve never heard of it, they don’t know what it is, I was really surprised.”

The club meets every other Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

At the first meeting, officers were elected. They are Alyssa Witherington, president; Victoria Starr, vice president; Grian Kelley, Mini 4-H representative; Izzy Doyle, treasurer; Riley Pumphrey, secretary; Draven Doyle, Grades 2-4 representative; and Jocelyn Douglas, Grades 5-8 representative.

Witherington, a junior at Medora High School, said she was familiar with 4-H.

“I go to the fair every year and have a bunch of friends who show pigs, cows, horses, and I’ve always wanted to do it, but I’ve never had the chance to do it,” she said.

When the opportunity arose for her to be an officer, she jumped at it. Since the club is for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade, she gets to interact with a variety of ages.

“Just being around little kids, I love it,” Witherington said. “I consider myself a good role model, so I want to be a good role model for them.”

The officers and adult volunteers are working together to come up with activities for each club meeting.

They also picked four 4-H projects to do during the after-school program time: Woodworking or sewing; health; wildlife; and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Club members also can do other 4-H projects, but they will have to do them on their own time.

The club will continue to meet through the end of the school year, and their projects will remain at the school until club leaders take them to the fair next summer.

Kincaid said she’s glad to be a part of bringing 4-H to the school because kids gain leadership skills and grow in many ways.

“If they start as a kindergartner, then we’re building them up all the way through their senior year,” she said. “Then we’re also meeting a lot of those standards that are in their curriculum and different things like that through different projects. Just kind of creating a sense of community here in Medora is another really big part.”

Bowlen said there are a lot of great programs in 4-H that teach kids useful information and skills.

“I hope it brings to them a sense of belonging to something, to strive to join other clubs and meet with other groups to bring something of Medora to the world,” she said. “Not just learn from others and their ideas but to share their own and teach others about what our community is like, essentially build self-confidence and open opportunities for the kids in our community.”

VonDielingen said a couple of other 4-H clubs meet at schools, but they aren’t based at those locations, so that’s what makes the Medora Makers unique.

“We would love to see after-school 4-H clubs organized throughout the entire county in the future,” she said.

The 4-H club has led to Medora starting an FFA chapter and offering agriculture classes in the 2018-19 school year.

“Down the road, maybe we’ll do some judging teams through 4-H and do different things like that with our kids,” Kincaid said.

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4-H empowers young people to reach their full potential. The research-based program includes experiential learning opportunities, hands-on project work, adult mentors and meaningful leadership opportunities.

During the 2016-17 program year, there were 34 traditional community 4-H clubs and two special interest SPARK Clubs in Jackson County.

A total of 761 kids were enrolled in 4-H in 2016-17, and 171 approved adult 4-H volunteers and 111 youth volunteers served in leadership capacities.

Indiana 4-H is the state’s largest youth development program for grades 3 through 12, reaching more than 200,000 youth in all 92 counties. In 2013, a Tufts University study showed 4-H members also excel in positive youth development areas compared to peers, including:

  • Four times more likely to contribute to their communities (grades 7 through 12)
  • Two times more likely to make healthier choices (Grade 7)
  • Two times more likely to be civically active (grades 8 through 12)
  • Two times more likely to participate in extracurricular STEM programs (grades 10 through 12)

Source: Heather VonDielingen, Jackson County 4-H youth development educator

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The Medora Makers 4-H Club is for all youth in kindergarten through 12th grade who attend Medora Community Schools.

Students interested in enrolling may contact club leader Ashley Kincaid, a teacher at the school.

For information about Jackson County 4-H, call Heather VonDielingen at 812-358-6101 or email [email protected].


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