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4-H Saves Lives: A Teen’s Trajectory to Thrive

Many people know 4-H as the nation’s largest youth development organization. They may also know that 4-H programs focus on life skill development through experiential learning in a safe affirming environment. However, something many may not know is that 4-H, in many cases, is a LIFESAVER! 4-H saves lives daily through positive youth development provided to youth throughout the nation ages 5-18. 4-H also influences the lives of volunteers ages 18 and beyond by providing the opportunity for them to make a difference in the world by shaping the future through our youth. How many people can actually say they had a hand in shaping the future of our nation?

Cheyenne joined 4-H during December 2014. She and her family had recently moved to the area and coincidentally her mother stumbled upon the Extension Office thinking it was a satellite location of the University of Florida that provided classes. Upon entering, she was directed to the new 4-H Agent, shared her story and passion for livestock, and was quickly recruited to be a part of the Walton County 4-H family. Soon Cheyenne began attending meetings in the Cherokee Riders Horse Club and later took leadership opportunities by becoming an officer. By the 2015 4-H year, Cheyenne was President of both the Cherokee Riders and Livestock Clubs, a member of Teen Council and volunteering whenever possible. It was clear she was on a trajectory to thrive and making great strides toward her future goals!

Sadly, in the Spring of 2015, Cheyenne soon found herself facing enormous obstacles in her life. Her father was deployed, her parents were divorcing, she was trying to escape an unhealthy relationship, and she was being bullied at school on top of facing the normal emotional struggles of being a teen. Cheyenne became depressed and withdrawn from most everyone. Her normal smile and cheerful manner had been suppressed. Her focus on clubs and school began to wither and feelings of doubt set in.  It became apparent that she was facing failure to thrive and was contemplating unhealthy decisions.

After sitting down with her concerned 4-H Agent and her mother, Cheyenne agreed that 4-H Camp Timpoochee would be an excellent way to recharge and focus on herself for the summer! Cheyenne was trained as a Counselor and became very excited about her camp week with Walton County 4-H. During camp she approached her 4-H Agent and said,

“I really love it here…this 4-H stuff really works!”

She also stated that she could be herself at camp, her true self and everyone accepted her for it and even liked her. She made new friends, smiled, laughed and began to find herself again, only an improved more confident version of the girl who started camp on Monday.

Several weeks after camp Cheyenne’s mother came in to drop her off to volunteer for a day camp. She came into the 4-H office with tears in her eyes and said,

“Thank you. I don’t know what you did but thank you for bringing my baby back!”

Now Cheyenne holds officer positions in multiple clubs, has won several Blue and Grand Champion Ribbons in the Fair, was a State Qualifier at the Area A Horse Show, and has competed on the County and District level in cooking competitions. In addition, in 2016 Cheyenne won the Club Masters award from Southern States through her diligence and excellent care of her Reserve Grand Champion Doe!

4-H professionals, volunteers and youth themselves have the ability to give life back to youth in need! For more than 100 years, 4-H has been committed to the idea that youth are the single strongest catalyst for change. Based on Florida 4-H Facts and Impact, 4-H reaches 23, 954 youth through 4-H Clubs, 6,973 through 4-H camps, 21,455 through special interest programs, 148,268 through school enrichment, and 2,597 through after school programs. 4-H youth, regardless of background, socio-economic status, race, or gender have significantly lower drug, alcohol, and cigarette use than peers and are 2.4 times more likely to make healthy choices.

If you know a youth struggling to find their way, or an adult seeking to make a difference, consider researching 4-H in your community. There are endless opportunities available through 4-H clubs, camps, workshops, contests, leadership events and much more. Contact your local Extension Office to see how 4-H is shaping the future of youth in your community, or browse the links below.  You can ignite a spark to improve “your club, your community, your country and your world!”

From Learning to Leading: Jerrett Kandzer, a True Leader

4-H Alumnus Jerrett Kandzer with his agent, Niki Crawson.

As a 4-H Agent, one remembers many of their “firsts” on the job, i.e., their first day, their first fair, their first 4-H club meetings, etc.  For me in Holmes County 4-H, I was hired in the midst of a reorganization phase within the program.  I clearly remember meeting Jerrett Kandzer one of my first days on the job in 2007, a reserved yet quick-to-smile farm boy who seemed to be doing a good job of holding in the excitement of asking me 101 questions as his new 4-H Agent. He, along with his sister and parents, met with me to discuss re-establishing a 4-H archery club in our county.  Excited to have volunteers and youth interested in starting an archery club again, I couldn’t wait to get started.  That very next week, we all set a date for our first club meeting.  Jerrett and I still laugh today about the day of our first club meeting when we had to count me, the 4-H Agent, as the fifth member in attendance so that we did not have to cancel our first club meeting!  However, thanks to Jerrett’s perseverance and leadership as a youth nine years ago when starting the Dead Centers 4-H Archery Club in Holmes County, we now have over 65 4-H members in our archery program alone!  So, when getting ready to ask Jerrett how he believes 4-H has impacted him, I hesitate.  Thinking back over the past nine years, I am finding it difficult to think whether Jerrett has been impacted more so by 4-H or if 4-H has been impacted more so because of Jerrett.   For a 4-H Agent to have the pleasure to ponder such a wonderful conundrum means that 4-H is truly growing inspiring leaders!

According to Jerrett, he joined 4-H as a means to find extracurricular activities that fit not only his after school schedule around his farm life but also to find an outlet that fit him personally.  As he put it, “I was looking for somewhere I fit in.  I wasn’t an athlete in school.  I was raised on a farm.  So, I thought 4-H was cool.”  After joining 2007, Jerrett began to help rebuild and cultivate a sense of belonging for the next seven years in Holmes County 4-H.  With his giving spirit, contagious enthusiasm, and natural sense of urgency to make actions count, he truly inspired everyone he met to get involved and make the best better.

Jerrett’s passion for learning, leadership, and youth continues as he is applying his 4-H-acquired life skills in his life journey.  Currently, he is a junior at the University of Florida in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, with a graduation date of Spring 2018.  He attributes his good leadership and time management skills to his deep involvement with 4-H.  Always wanting to do much more than time allows, Jerrett said 4-H taught him to prioritize and schedule his time efficiently.  In fact, In between college classes, studying, squeezing in fast visits back home, and working with CRU on campus, Jerrett still devotes time to 4-H as a volunteer with Alachua County 4-H.  When asked why he felt compelled to volunteer at this time in his life, Jerrett replied with his easy grin,

“Ms. Niki, there are not many ways to serve your community as a poor college kid.  Overall, I’d say being a 4-H volunteer is an easy and safe way to give back to kids and the community.”

When asked about what he enjoys the most about 4-H, Jerrett immediately replied,  “Working with kids.  Helping youth learn by doing through hands on experiences is a good vessel for them to mature with positive adult role models around to assist them.  4-H is not about winning like other youth programs are about.  It’s about growing through maturity, not competition.”

Jerrett is a Holmes County 4-H alumni, a true 4-H leader.  He is a present day 4-H example of the definition John Quincy Adams once gave a leader, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  So it’s little surprise that this 4-H alumni has no intentions of ending his green journey after college.  Jerrett’s career plans include putting his 4-H life skills, farm experience, and University of Florida education to perfect use as a future UF/IFAS Extension Agriculture Agent.  We look forward to Jerrett’s return to the Extension Service one day soon.

Are you a 4-H Alumni interested in “paying it forward” to inspire the next generation?  We would love to talk to you about the different ways you can help us grow 4-H in your community!  Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org for more information.

Serving those with Cancer

4-H youth participate in service projects at the club, county, district and state levels throughout the year. As adults, 4-H youth are more civically active.

Each year, teens across the Florida panhandle convene for a weekend to practice leadership skills, learn workforce skills and participate in service to their communities.  This years’ event will be February 24-26th at 4-H Camp Timpoochee.  Teens plan and lead the weekend retreat.  Last year, teens cut out and donated more than 200 pairs of shoes for Sole Hope, an organization that provides shoes for children in Africa in order to prevent foot related diseases.  This year, the project they chose was to make Chemo Kits for cancer patients.  Over the next six weeks, teens will be collecting items for the kits and will bring them to the retreat to package them up.  Each county will be partnering with local hospitals and hospice groups to distribute the kits.

We are asking clubs, alumni and other 4-H supporters to please donate items for the kits so that we can serve as many cancer patients as possible.  You can drop the items off at our local 4-H Extension Office.  Here’s a list of items that are needed:

  • Coloring books (youth and adult)
  • Crayons/ colored
    pencils
  • Beanies/ hats
  • Headbands
  • Water bottles
  • Stuffed animals
  • Slipper socks

Please consider supporting this district-wide service project!  For more information, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Soar with 4-H and the National Flight Academy

Kyle working the air traffic control booth at the National Flight Academy. Photo Credit: Prudence Caskey

4-H has joined forces with the National Flight academy to bring a unique and exciting aviation camp to our 4-Hers.  The National Flight Academy builds heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled story line, which brings life to a mission as if the students are in a real-world scenario. Students apply these skills by flying the high-performance X-12 Triad, the National Flight Academy’s experimental aircraft, offering them hands-on comprehension of the principles of flight thrust, hovering and target drops. Our 3-day cruise will be held on President’s Day Weekend, February 18th – February 20th 2017.  The event is open to 4-Hers across the Southeast and costs $375 per student which includes rooming, food, and a lot of fun and learning! This would be an awesome holiday or birthday gift for any special youth in your life.

Participation in the event can also help young people develop both life and workforce skills- not to mention academic achievement. Kyle Caskey, a Santa Rosa County 4-Her, attended a week-long cruise last summer and shared:

“Before I went to the National Flight Academy (NFA), I was really intimidated by math. I love science, but just didn’t get the math. At NFA, I was able to use math and see why it works. I brought my grade up to an A! Oh yeah, the food is really good too!”

Click Here for registration instructions: 4hregistrationletter-for-nfa. You must be registered before January 28th, 2017.

The National Flight Academy is located on the NAS base at 1 Fetterman Way, NAS Pensacola, FL 32508.  See more about the academy at http://www.nationalflightacademy.com.

If you have an interest in science, engineering, math, and/or technology (STEM), consider becoming a 4-H volunteer so that you can share your passion to spark the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org for more information.