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NO! Not the Dreaded Record Book. . .

Many youth (and parents) dread the 4-H Record Book

In the early years of 4-H, record books were a way to document profit or loss on a project, such as raising and preserving a crop or raising a herd of cattle. Over the years, record books have expanded to include topics like babysitting, robotics and sewing.  However the reasons why 4-H encourages youth to complete record books is the same- it is one of the most effective tools in positive youth development.  4-H Record Books foster the Essential Elements of positive youth development through:

  • Belonging: 4-H members are awarded for their participation in activities, earning symbols of belonging as they continue in 4-H (e.g. ribbons, achievement pins).
  • Mastery: Through competition, 4-H members receive feedback on their participation and record keeping skills so they can improve and grow.
  • Independence: 4-H members set and record goals and their progress towards those goals throughout the year. Record books also encourage members to participate in leadership development activities.
  • Generosity: 4-H members are provided an incentive to engage in their communities through positive citizenship and community development activities.

Record books are an effective way for youth to learn life skills.

However, record books are generally regarded as a chore young people; most fail to realize its value until they reach adulthood.  However, many 4-H Alumni still have their record books and will be quick to point out that the process taught them multiple life skills such as:

  • Time management and organizational skills.
  • Responsibility
  • How to set goals
  • Preparation for completion of resumes and applications for awards, college scholarships, and jobs
  • Financial literacy and keeping track of expenses
  • Written communication

But what does the research say?  Life skill development through record books is well documented.  During a recent study, 4-H alumni were polled regarding their experiences in 4-H and the use of record books (Bikos, Haney, Kirkpatrick-Husk and Hsia. Journal of Youth Development, 2014).  Alumni spoke of the real-world applicability of skills acquired during completion of record books to their adult life:

“It prepares us for life after we leave 4-H,” and “It has helped with a number of projects since I’ve left 4-H.”

Comparing skills learned in her Sewing/Needlework project to those gained from completion of record books, one alumnus said:

“Even though I’m not still doing clothing type things, I’m still doing things that I have to take records of.”

Leader perspectives voiced a similar theme but with a more parental tone:

“They may not be really aware of how this is going to relate in their real life, but it’s going to   whether they know it, or like it, or not.”

Alumni and leaders who had completed record books reported that the experience helped them successfully apply for college, scholarships, and employment. While most used the record book as an organized resource for easily locating information (e.g., “It was all there for me which was amazing”), a few were able to use the actual record book itself. 4-H members in Florida refer to their record books when completing their 4-H Portfolio, part of the process for applying for state awards and scholarships.

If you have a skill to share and would like to inspire the next generation, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We offer a wide variety of roles to fit your interests and schedule. For more information about 4-H, visit our website or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

Next up, how to complete a record book (the easy way) by Escambia County 4-H Agent Brian Estevez.

 Full research article on the benefits of 4-H Record Books  

4-H Horse Health Clinic Scheduled for June 13th

The Area A 4-H Horse Advisory Committee is pleased to welcome Dr. Bess Darrow, DVM and Mr. Billy Blackman, Professional Farrier to our first Area A 4-H Equine Clinic.  Our focus will be on overall equine health, as well as dental and hoof concerns.  There is no fee for this clinic but you must register on Eventbrite by June 5th. Lunch is provided for current 4-H members.

After the workshop, participants may make appointments and bring their horses to have dental and hoof work done.  *Fees will apply. To make appointments you will need to contact Dr. Darrow or Mr. Blackman personally (see flyer for contact information.)

The Area A Horse Advisory Committee is planning a series of both educational and competitive events for youth enrolled in the 4-H Horse and “Horse-less” Horse Projects this coming 4-H year!  For more information about the Florida 4-H Horse Program, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit one of these links:

Florida 4-H Horse Project Page

Florida 4-H Horse Events (UF IFAS Animal Sciences)

Serving Special Needs Drives this Volunteer

“This group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other.  Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”

Ann Marie Shelton and Syntha Alvarez

On day four of National Volunteer Week, Jackson County 4-H Agent Angel Granger shares the story of Ann Marie Shelton, a volunteer who leads the Jackson County 4-H ASK Club – Always Support Kids.  In her own words, Ann Marie shares what inspired her to start this club and the impact it has had:

“The volunteer part is deep rooted, goes back to me as a very small child.  I enjoyed helping others, it made me feel good!  That stuck with me through the years.  There is so much going on in the world that is tough to hear.  I firmly believe that we have the power to change much of this.  Volunteering time, expertise, and a dash of passion will do much to make this world a better place.  When volunteering, you are given the opportunity to lead by example, by not waiting around for good or needed things to happen you are showing that everyone has the capacity within themselves to be a part of the change.  This may require you to step out of your comfort zone and start something new or join a group of volunteers already working on a cause of interest to you. One benefit of volunteering is you get to choose areas to volunteer that are of interest to you, whether it be something you are passionate about or something you want to learn about.

ASK Volunteer Anne Marie Shelton (pictured 3rd L-R) with her club members.

After having my four children, two of which are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and reconnecting with a friend from High School with two children on the autism spectrum, volunteering became even more important to me.  What we have found, living in our rural part of the state of Florida, is that there are few formal services or programs offered for children with exceptional needs.  I like to refer to these as diffabilities (I did not come up with this word, but it is perfect).  When our son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was having such difficulties in certain settings outside the home, our instinct was to withdraw to the safety of our home, not pursuing social opportunities outside the home, that were new or unfamiliar.

Eventually we realized that was not in anyone’s best interest.  After diagnosis, we began connecting with families and organizations all over the panhandle of Florida that were on similar missions.  We also came to realize that we needed to expand on special interests and explore potential new interests, leisure opportunities, future job skills and the like.  We had been following the ASK-Madison 4-H Group on Facebook and had made connections with Leslie McLeod.  When the opportunity arose last year at Family Café, an annual disabilities related conference in Florida, to hear about their 4-H program, we jumped at the chance to find out more.  After getting to hear them talk about their program and finding out about the number of diverse opportunities 4-H offers, we decided to give it a go, in our community so we contacted our 4-H agent Angel Granger to find out how to get started. We wanted to provide a group that families could feel comfortable in participating in.  We wanted those families to know, that we understand the best way for our kids to learn about participating in group activities and activities within our community, was to experience it.  They often need a safe place to start, to let down their guards, to learn new skills and more importantly be given a multitude of opportunities to practice those new skills, in different situations, with different people, in different environments.”

The group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other.  Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”

If you are interested in starting a similar club in your county (or helping other volunteers support exceptional youth), contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit

ASK Jackson County 4-H Facebook

Chipola Area Autism Resource Center, Inc. Facebook

Reflections from Graduating 4-H Seniors

Trey is a graduating senior from the 4-H Buckaroos Horse Club

Trey is a graduating senior from the 4-H Buckaroos Horse Club

One of the most important milestones in one’s life is completing their high school education. Such is the case for Trey and Savannah, two bright young Jackson County 4-H members who are graduating this month. Both youth were asked to reflect upon their 4-H experience and share their thoughts in this week’s blog post.

Trey joined 4-H six years ago and has been a member of the Jackson County 4-H Buckaroos Horse Club for two years. Trey is a homeschool student. He has competed in the 4-H Horse Project at the local, State and Regional levels and has also participated in community service events for Sunland and the Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch. He has competed in the District and State 4-H Horse Shows since 2014 and even qualified for the Regional Show last year. He will compete in the 2016 State Show in July.

Trey shares that he got involved in 4-H through a neighbor. When he joined, there wasn’t a horse club in Jackson County, so he participated in the Gadsden County 4-H Horse Club. He transferred his membership back to Jackson County when the 4-H Buckaroos horse club started a couple of years ago. When asked what he has learned through 4-H, Trey states:

“I have learned that 4-H is not just about horses and cattle. It’s about meeting new people and learning how to come together as a club and a family. Participating in 4-H has helped me to be more confident and has helped me overcome being shy and having trouble speaking in front of people. I definitely see myself coming back as a volunteer because I loved my 4-H experience and would like to see more kids have that same experience.”

Much of his positive experience in 4-H is a result of the relationships he has had with caring adult volunteers. “Mr. Terry Harris has helped me with everything that I can think of with my horse project. He and Mrs. Katricia Edenfield are not just 4-H volunteers to me, they are family and I love my 4-H family! I would like to add that I have had a great time in 4-H and it has helped me grow into the young man that I am today. I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to be in 4-H.”

Savannah is a graduating senior from the Jackson County Livestock Club.

Savannah is a graduating senior from the Jackson County Livestock Club.

Savannah is a member of the Jackson County 4-H Livestock club and joined 4-H two years ago. Savannah will graduate from Cottondale high school this month. Savannah has exhibited cattle, competed on 4-H livestock, poultry and meat judging teams, and has also been a member of the Jackson County 4-H Youth Council. She has attended 4-H University as a voting delegate and she also attended the inaugural 4-H Youth Teen Retreat held in February of this year.

Savannah got involved in 4-H after attended an Open House event in 2014. Although she has only been in 4-H two years, she says:

“4-H has taught me how to be a leader. I have been encouraged to believe in myself and to never give up. Being in 4-H has helped me to develop self-confidence and the ability to speak in front of people. I definitely want to come back to 4-H as a volunteer. 4-H is my second family. The volunteers in our 4-H Club have taught me to never give up and to always follow my dreams. They have helped me develop confidence in myself and the things that I can do. They have also taught me the value of teamwork and sportsmanship. When we win, we win together and when we lose, we lose together. 4-H helps kids to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. I am so very thankful for my 4-H club and leaders. I would not be where I am today without them.”

On behalf of the Northwest District 4-H Agents, we wish all of our graduating seniors the best. We thank you for your involvement in 4-H and invite you to join our 4-H Alumni Group. Later this month, we will share how graduating seniors can extend their 4-H experience through Collegiate 4-H.  As you can see, 4-H has lots of opportunities to fuel the extraordinary efforts of young people so that they are prepared to face a complex and changing world. We strive to help youth develop life skills to prepare them to be productive members of the community and workforce. If you would like to get involved as a member, volunteer, advocate or even donor, please contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit


4-H Grows Family Tradition for Four Generations

“When I was growing up 50 some years ago in West Gadsden County, I had no idea that the people that were a part of my everyday life would someday chart my path for the future.”

Angel (Clark) Granger showing her steer in Gadsden County, igniting a lifelong passion for 4-H.

Angel (Clark) Granger showing her steer in Gadsden County, igniting a lifelong passion for 4-H.

I didn’t realize until recently just how deeply my roots are tied to 4-H. Not only does my family represent four generations of 4-H (with the addition of my granddaughter joining this year), but because there were people I took for granted that were absolutely engrained in Extension and 4-H.

I was the first child of Nelson and Karen Clark. I grew up on a farm raising cattle and goats. My grandmother was Ruby Scott Clark and everybody called me “Little Ruby” when I was growing up. She taught me how to string tobacco, garden, ride horses, drive a car, and how to make hoecake. My Granny’s best friend was Miss Elise Lafitte, County Home Demonstration Agent in Gadsden County during the 1950’s. She introduced my aunt, Shirley Clark, a now retired FCS Agent, to my uncle, Scott Clark. My cousin Bernard Clark was an Extension Agent in Gadsden County who is in the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame. My uncle Charles Rowan was an Ag Agent in Dixie and Pinellas Counties. If you read the chapter regarding Gadsden County in the book commemorating the 100 year Anniversary of 4-H in Florida, “Florida 4-H, A century of Youth Success”, you will see my Dad, my sons and me highlighted for our three generations of 4-H participation.

Growing up, I never tried to figure out what Extension was or why we had 4-H, it was just always there. My 4-H Agent growing up was Dickie Bentley. She made monthly visits to Greensboro Elementary School to teach us about record books and 4-H projects. I learned about veterinary science, public speaking, and how to give a demonstration. I still have every ribbon and pin I earned.

I left high school in the eleventh grade to help save the family farm from foreclosure. I soon married my husband Anthony and we moved to Tallahassee to work. In 1985 we bought 10 acres from my Dad, and we moved back home. In 1988 my second child, Cody was born. From the time they were old enough to tote a bucket, my husband and I worked the farm with my dad and taught our sons the value of life on the farm and family traditions.

I have a 4-H Exhibitor Card that was my Dad’s for ears of corn he entered as a 4-H Exhibit, as well as pictures of him showing cattle as a

Angel still has her father's 4-H exhibit card for corn he grew and exhibited at the fair. circa 1956

Angel still has her father’s 4-H exhibit card for corn he grew and exhibited at the fair. circa 1956

4-Her. He made sure that I had those same opportunities in 4-H. He bought steers, hogs and feed for me to show as a child, and later also for my oldest son Cole. He and proudly watched Cole work with and show his first steer in 1994.

Sadly, I lost my Dad three months later. He was only 54 and had spent his whole life trying to keep our farm going. I watched my Dad struggle every day, working as a barber, a school bus driver, and a farmer to make ends meet. He bought cheap cattle, made poor decisions regarding crops, nearly lost everything to bankruptcy and soybean disaster, but he never gave up. I vowed the day I buried my Dad that I was going to find a way to help other people like my Dad, I just never dreamed it would lead me into Extension.

Angel's sons, Cole and Cody Granger, also grew up in the 4-H family tradition and reply on many of the skills they learned in 4-H in their jobs as civil engineers.

Angel’s sons, Cole and Cody Granger, also grew up in the 4-H family tradition and reply on many of the skills they learned in 4-H in their jobs as civil engineers.

After dad’s death, we continued what he started by keeping the boys in 4-H. I became the livestock club leader. My husband also volunteered to keep our boys active in 4-H showing cattle, hogs, and horses, and competing in county events until they both graduated high school. Both of my sons will tell you that 4-H played a huge role in making them the men they are today. They were part of clubs that had inclusive environments, they had opportunities to meet new people and were both able to use the skills they mastered to be successful in not only their college careers, but as professional engineers today.

After my sons finished high school and started college, I decided it was time to finish my education as well. Both of my sons graduated with degrees in Civil Engineering and I graduated with a degree in Agriculture with Emphasis in Animal Science. I had dreams of

Nelson Clark showing a steer, circa late 1940's/early 1950s

Nelson Clark showing a steer, circa late 1940’s/early 1950s

becoming an Extension Agent and working with farmers and families to help them make good decisions and have access to resources. After two years, I was hired as the 4-H Youth Development Agent in Jackson County (ironically my Granny was born and raised in Bascom, a small town in Jackson County). After a successful 32-year career with the Florida Department of State, I set out on another exciting 4-H journey. Every day I strive to honor the memory of my Dad (who would have been 76 years old this month), my Granny, and my other family members who have been part of the legacy of Extension. Most importantly, I strive to make a difference in a young person’s life just like my 4-H Agent did.

Are you part of a 4-H family tradition?  If not, consider starting one today.  4-H offers a broad spectrum of projects and activities to serve a variety of interests, skills, and knowledge.  Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office or visit to enroll as a youth member or adult volunteer!