Often times we think of 4-H programming in the traditional context of agricultural education through school and community clubs. What we often forget is how diverse an audience the 4-H program actually serves. Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola is the home to two youth centers, the NAS Pensacola Youth Center and the Corry Station Youth Center. Every day the staff of these centers welcome and care for military youth in their charge. The staff at these centers work diligently to incorporate 4-H programming into their centers, serving as 4-H screened and trained volunteers. They provide the youth they serve a myriad of opportunities to develop life skills as well as give back to their community.
The NAS Pensacola 4-H club and the Corry Station 4-H club offer their youth a chance to engage in all aspects of 4-H programming. While some youth may be involved in the 21 day long embryology project, others may be focused on the archery programs, or maybe they are even doing both! Youth from these centers are often engaged in community service projects like volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House or collecting various items for those in need. Not to mention the grilling, hay bale decorating, and fair entries OH MY! To make a complete list of the projects the youth at these centers are involved in would be… exhausting! These clubs facilitate high quality programming through the dedication of the staff at these centers. Without them, these programs would not exist.
Breaking the Mold
While one might have the mental image of a 4-H volunteer being a parent or relative of a youth already in the program, this is not the case for many of the volunteers with the NAS Pensacola and Corry Station 4-H clubs. These volunteers are unique. They complete the 4-H 101 trainings, participate in county and district wide events, and facilitate some of the best programming Escambia County 4-H has to offer. Yet, could you list one name of a volunteer who is involved in these clubs? While these volunteers run 4-H programs year round and are constantly focused on providing on new opportunities, they are not often as visible as one might expect.
We Need All Kinds of Volunteers
These volunteers break the mold of a traditional 4-H volunteer. They serve a tight knit community who face many obstacles the majority of us could never comprehend. Through all of this though, these volunteers provide a sense of stability for the youth they serve. While 4-H programming is offered at Navy youth centers across the nation and the world, the volunteers at NAS Pensacola and Corry Station Youth Centers are exemplary. They even have a national award to prove it! The staff at these centers were the recipients of the 2019 National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Military Partnership Award. In comparison, this award does little to truly recognize their impact on the youth they serve. While youth center staff may not be “traditional” 4-H volunteers, they fill the need of the communities serve. A 4-H volunteer is most effective when they are able to understand the needs of the community and are able to adjust the programming to fit that need. Often times, it is through the volunteers that go unnoticed, traditional and unconventional alike, that the youth we serve are afforded the opportunities that 4-H programs offer year round.
For more information about UF/IFAS Extension programs or to learn more about how you can serve your community as a 4-H volunteer, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension.