Jackson County 4-H registration opens Tuesday


In the 2018-19 program year, 811 youth participated in Jackson County 4-H.

As registration opens Tuesday for the new program year, Heather VonDielingen, Jackson County 4-H youth development educator, said she feels more boys and girls in kindergarten through 12th grade will get involved.

“I would love to grow that number,” she said during the recent inaugural 4-H committee retreat at The Peoples Bank Data Center in Brownstown.

“Kind of my unofficial goal when I started was in five years, we would be up to 1,000, so I think we can still get there,” she said. “I think that just requires us to have more volunteers and more people sharing these experiences and sharing with the community how great it really is for our youth.”

Being in 4-H means kids are part of America’s largest youth development organization. According to 4-H.org, nearly 6 million young people across the United States are involved, and there are more than 3,500 4-H professionals and 500,000 volunteers.

Young people experience 4‑H through school and community clubs, in-school and after-school programs and 4‑H camps. In Jackson County, there are more than 30 4-H clubs that meet throughout the year in all parts of the county.

Based on their interests and guided by adult mentors, youth develop their own pathway in 4‑H. They select from a broad menu of 4‑H programs that are hands-on, learn-by-doing opportunities for everyone, according to 4-H.org. Locally, youth can explore more than 70 different projects in 4-H and showcase their talents at the Jackson County Fair.

Within the first year of becoming a 4-H volunteer, adults are required to go through training, during which they learn about the essential elements of positive youth development: Caring adults, safe environment, inclusive environment, mastery, engagement in learning, self-determination, service and seeing oneself in future.

VonDielingen said for a 4-H program to be successful, it has to have all eight of the essential elements.

“I think our strongest attribute here in Jackson County is caring adults,” she said. “We have about 180 4-H volunteers that help make this possible. I think all of the other seven elements exist, but I think (caring adults) is definitely our strongest one here in Jackson County.”

It also takes all of the 4-H committees to make a functioning 4-H program, VonDielingen said. That’s why she felt it was important to conduct a retreat to bring them all together in one place.

“We all get involved for various reasons, but the one thing we have in common as evidenced before is we’re here for the kids,” she said.

As the committees make goals for next year, VonDielingen encouraged them to think about the eight essential elements and how they can be incorporated into the activities, events and workshops they plan. She told them to think outside the box.

“It doesn’t have to be targeting the kids already in your project. It could be a way to recruit new kids to your project,” she said. “Not a requirement, but each committee is being encouraged to offer a project workshop. You can make it one of your goals.”

She also talked about the Indiana 4-H mission, which is to provide real-life educational opportunities that develop young people who will have a positive impact in their communities and the world, and vision, which is to be the premier community-based program empowering young people to reach their full potential.

“There are a lot of different organizations our kids can get involved in,” she said. “What makes us stand out that’s something we can talk about? What makes 4-H unique to some of the other programs you can get involved in? … What does 4-H have to offer that maybe some of those don’t?”

Starting Tuesday, people can contact Purdue Extension Jackson County at 812-358-6101 or email VonDielingen at [email protected] for information on joining 4-H or becoming a 4-H volunteer. They also can enroll online at in.4honline.com.

Then from Oct. 6 to 12, Jackson County 4-H will observe National 4-H Week by showcasing the experiences that the organization offers young people and will highlight members in the community who work each day to make a positive impact on those around them.

VonDielingen said the theme of this year’s National 4-H Week is “Inspire Kids to Do,” which highlights how 4-H encourages kids to take part in hands-on learning experiences in areas such as health, science, agriculture and civic engagement.

In 4-H, members pledge their heads to clearer thinking, hearts to greater loyalty, hands to larger service and health to better living.

No posts to display