The month of April provides an opportunity to recognize and honor the service of our youngest heroes, military children. Since 1986, April has been designated Month of the Military Child. This allows us to acknowledge the significant role military youth play in our communities and honor them for their commitment and sacrifice. They are resilient and take pride in their service to our Country. They deserve our appreciation and support.
I am so excited to introduce you to one of our 4-H grown military youth, Michael. He began as a Bay County 4-H member as a summer camper three years ago. Michael then became involved with the 4-H club programs on base through the 4-H Torch Leadership Club. He serves as a peer mentor to other military youth in the base school age program. His work with younger youth includes helping them design, plant, and maintain a garden at their youth center. Assisting with homework and school struggles. Michael also participates in the 4-H Archery Program. In February, he was nominated as “Teen of the Month”. At camp this year, he is looking forward to serving as a counselor-in-training. Michael has adopted a quarterly service project using cooking skills he acquired from the 4-H foods and nutrition project to prepare and serve food to the single military members. He and his club are currently perfecting their entrepreneurial skills while working on a service project to support local veterans. He is also on the school track team. Michael is a phenomenal youth with a heart of gold and passion for helping others. He is a well-rounded young man that is very involved in 4-H. He exemplifies the 4 H’s – Head, Hands, Heart and Health. One of his club leaders, Ms. Heather said he really shows an interest in the younger youth and takes his role as a peer mentor seriously. She relayed a story of Michael taking extra time from his schedule to help a youth he was mentoring prepare for an upcoming test. His mentee was struggling to understand the material that was going to be tested on the next day, so extra time was needed reviewing the material.
When I ask Michael what he felt he was getting out of being a 4-H member at the youth center and at camp, he responded “I feel that for the last few years since I have been in 4-H, I have become more outgoing, confident and experienced in so many ways. If not for 4-H, I might still be sitting in my room all day playing video games. I especially like helping others whenever I can whether it’s at the Youth Center or at Summer Camp. So to me, 4-H is an amazing program that has been a positive influence in my life and in making me the person I am today.”
If you are a teen and want to learn more about how you can volunteer in your own county, please contact your local extension agent. Volunteering is a time investment that will pay you back exponentially through the growth you see in the youth and program you’re affiliated with. Volunteers come in all forms from peer mentors, camp counselors, to committee members. Follow the links below to see how you can help 4-H expand our capacity to reach more youth, more families, and more communities through utilizing your skills, your knowledge, and your story! #trueleaders #4hgrows
4-H Agent Misty Smith trains staff at Eglin air force base.
Did you know that 4-H and the military have a partnership to help support military youth? Most people don’t know that there is a strong partnership between 4-H and all branches of the military to include the National Guard, and Reserves. 4-H clubs have been established on nearly every Army, Navy, and Air Force installation worldwide, while 4-H clubs in communities provide support to military youth living off base installations.
4-H clubs provide consistency and belonging, and an opportunity to develop life skills through a positive youth development framework. As a parent’s military role causes frequent moves, 4-H clubs provide familiarity and stability throughout the military child’s life. Military youth can find 4-H in every county in the U.S. and on overseas installations, making new transitions easier because they can continue on with their 4-H work. Research shows 4-H youth excel beyond their peers: 4-H youth are more likely to be civically active, make contributions to their communities, participate in science programs during out-of-school time, and make healthier choices. (Tufts University, 2012)
Military youth involved in 4-H are also able to participate in local, state, and national events and may qualify for military scholarships to help offset the cost of these events. Every year, 4-H’ers have the opportunity to participate in overnight camp in the Panhandle of Florida. One camp that is offered at Camp Timpoochee, located in Niceville, is Camp Corral. Camp Corral is an amazing week of non-stop fun and excitement in the great outdoors for children (ages 8 to 15) of our military heroes. It’s for the children of brave soldiers who have been injured or fallen protecting our freedom, our way of life.
Read more about our military programs in last year’s military volunteer post, 4-H Military Volunteers Hit the Bull’s-eye. Parents and youth can get more information on the 4-H Military Partnership by contacting their school age program located on any military installation, visit http://florida4h.org, or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.
Today is our final post for this year’s National Volunteer Week Celebration. We’ve heard from several different types of volunteers- project club leaders, school volunteers, gardening volunteers and SPIN club volunteers. Today we will hear from Mrs. Linda Jones, a Gadsden County 4-H Community Club Volunteer. After retiring from a career of teaching, Mrs. Jones stopped by her local county extension office to ask some questions about her small farm. During her visit, the former county extension director, Dr. Henry Grant, told her about the 4-H program and asked if she would like to get involved as a volunteer. Mrs. Jones was sold! Since then, her club has been involved in multiple service projects that support local community members such as Second Harvest Food Bank and Relay for Life. Her club also participates in the North Florida Fair. In addition to being a community club leader, Mrs. Jones is also a certified overnight chaperone and chaperones youth every summer at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake. When asked what she enjoys most about her volunteer role with 4-H, Mrs. Jones shared:
“I taught school for 30 years, so I have a love of learning. I love that 4-H has so many different curricula and that almost everything in 4-H is a learning opportunity. I am just a kid at heart, and 4-H is a playground for learning.”
Mrs. Jones shared that another thing she appreciates about 4-H is their focus on safety. Paperwork and safety trainings are not her favorite aspect of 4-H, but Mrs. Jones admits that she sees the value in it and appreciates the protection it provides to both her and the kids in her club. “As a teacher, I am more focused on the learning part, but 4-H has trained me to keep safety a priority. For example, I wanted to take the kids horseback riding, and my agent pointed out that for 4-H activities, youth must wear a helmet while riding horses. I wouldn’t have thought of that on my own, but 4-H has my back. The legal ramifications can be challenging, but as a mother and grandmother, I see the value.”
In addition to being a community club leader, Mrs. Jones is also a certified overnight chaperone and chaperones youth every summer at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake. For years, she has taken her grandchildren to camp, who have acted reluctant to go. Recently, she learned that her grandkids may need to move for her daughter’s new job. She was shocked to learn that their first reaction to the news was dismay that they would have to miss Camp Cherry Lake! Mrs. Jones chaperoned 4-H University for the first time this past year, and she recalls a favorite memory of this 1st time experience. “Two of the youth that I took to 4-H University were graduating seniors and would soon be leaving for college. One of the most important things they took away from that experience was a real feeling of independence. One of the youth shared that having her own dorm room key made her feel grown up and mature. That is not what I would have expected, and it seems like a simple thing, but it is important.”
If you are thinking about becoming a community club volunteer, Mrs. Jones offers a word of advice, “Don’t get discouraged by the rules, regulations and policies- they will become your best friend and are in place to protect both you and the young people you are impacting.” If you would like to make a difference in your community the way that Mrs. Jones has, think about sharing your talents with us! You can fuel the extraordinary efforts of our youth by joining us as a volunteer. To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers. Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week- we hope you have enjoyed this year’s series with a peek inside some of the roles our volunteers serve!
4-H Clubs and many others will be sporting the color Purple to support military youth on April 8! Join them celebrating April Month of the Military Child and Purple UP! Day April 8 or April 15. Be creative….the goal is for military youth to see the support in their school, youth groups, and the community! If you don’t have or own a purple shirt wear a purple ribbon, tie, headband etc. Just show your support and let our youth know we care about them! Can’t make the 8th then do something another day in April. We would like to encourage you to take pictures of your group wearing purple and share them on social media. This allows us to honor our young heroes and their families for their commitment and sacrifice for our freedom!
Becky Pengelley, SPin Sewing volunteer
Many of our greatest relationships can be traced back to chance encounters. Evelyn Gonzalez and Becky Pengelly, the Leon County 4-H Sewing SPIN (Special Interest) Club Leaders, met by chance though the encouragement their 4-H Agent, Stefanie Prevatt. Evelyn learned of Leon County 4-H in the summer of 2014 through her service with the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. A few short weeks later, Becky found the 4-H Office after learning about the program through her college coursework at the University of Florida. Both had a love of sewing, a passion for working with youth, and jam-packed schedules. Not to be deterred, Evelyn and Becky quickly decided Florida 4-H’s new SPIN club model was the best fit for their busy schedules. When asked why she choose to volunteer with 4-H, Evelyn replied:
“Volunteering is always gratifying. There is a need and you are trying to fill it. Working with youth is stimulating and rewarding. They are smart, fast, and funny. They make me laugh. You learn about what makes kids tick, what their concerns are, and you learn about what you are teaching [sewing].
Evelyn Gonzalez teaching youth how to sew patches of a quilt.
Sewing is expensive. The cost of material is the number one concern for the continual operation of the Leon County 4-H Sewing SPIN Club. Fees are necessary for some projects, but Evelyn and Becky work around this issue. Evelyn has lived in Tallahassee for years and has used her connectedness to solicit fabric donations to reduce fees for club members. Becky is a repurpose queen with a passion for teens. When asked what inspires her to continue to be a 4-H volunteer, Becky replied: “The teens in our clubs come to each meeting so excited about what we are going to do, and they have so many ideas about what they will make once they learn…4-H has provided opportunities for [them] to learn things that they wouldn’t learn anywhere else in the community.”
The Leon County 4-H Sewing SPIN club has been serving Tallahassee since early 2015. With each new “spin,” members embark on a journey of learning new skills and creating projects that show their mastery of the subject. One parent stated: “Ms. Evelyn and Ms. Becky are so patient with the students. They clearly put a lot of work and energy into every meeting. The students leave with increased confidence and skill, which is evident from the huge smiles on their faces. We so appreciate these two ladies, as well as the other volunteers that give so generously of their time. The students are inspired, as well as challenged, to do more than they thought they could.”
Evelyn and Becky teach youth and parents to sew!
For those thinking about volunteering with Florida 4-H, Evelyn and Becky have this advice: “Don’t be afraid to work with someone different from you. Becky is a young college girl. We think we’re busy. And they’re busier. I marvel that they carve out some time on a Saturday to come help teach sewing. Share the load. Work with a team” (Evelyn) “I have had the opportunity to meet new people and to share the things I love with them! If you have something to share with children, 4-H will support you in doing this!” (Becky)
If you have a desire to make a difference in your community, think about sharing your talents with us! You can fuel the extraordinary efforts of our youth by joining us as a volunteer. To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers. Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week- Come back tomorrow to learn about Gadsden County Community Club Leader, Mrs. Linda Jones.