By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia
Georgia 4-H inspires kids to do — to do community service, go to new places and to learn new skills. Georgians across the state are celebrating everything 4-H’ers do during National 4-H Week – Oct. 7-13. What started as a club for farm kids has grown into the nation’s largest youth leadership organization — a place where school-aged children learn to become successful and confident adults.
Georgia is home to one of the largest state programs in the country, with about 170,000 active 4-H members. Georgia 4-H began in 1904 when Newton County school superintendent, G.C. Adams organized a corn club for boys. Today, Georgia 4-H attracts students from all areas of the state, not just those who live on farms. Only 3.1 percent of Georgia 4-H members now live on a farm.
Active 4-H members become successful adults, like Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Jennifer Nettles of Coffee County, Georgia. She says Georgia 4-H gave her a platform to share her voice and her passion.
Award-winning country singer Trisha Yearwood, a native of Jasper County, Georgia, credits 4-H for teaching her that her talents would take her far, but her heart would make her a star.
TV and radio host and legal commentator Nancy Grace, a native of Bibb County, Georgia, says 4-H taught her that leaders follow their dreams, but working hard makes dreams a reality.
Georgia 4-H is available to children in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. Here in Decatur County, over 900 students in fourth through 12th grade participate in 4-H. Local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Coordinator/4-H agent Lindsey Bell Hayes leads the 4-H program here.
The four ‘H’s stand for head, heart, hands and health and are represented by the four-leaf clover. Participating youths develop life skills through hands-on projects involving volunteer work, health, science, engineering, technology, leadership, agriculture and communication.
Georgia 4-H programs, under the umbrella of UGA Extension, are based on research from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and other UGA colleges. Georgia 4-H agents supplement teachers’ efforts by creating materials based on after-school lessons and in-school curricula designed to meet Georgia Performance Standards.
“The idea of bringing UGA research and resources to Georgia students through the use of county agents throughout the state was a cutting-edge idea in 1904 and remains so even today,” said Arch Smith, state 4-H leader. “The most important work of 4-H is to help young people become better citizens and enable them to grow into responsible, active adults.”
Georgia 4-H youth perform community service, conduct research, compile portfolios of their accomplishments and learn public speaking skills through oral presentations at 4-H Project Achievement. During the 2016-17 school year, 43,067 Georgia 4-H members participated in Project Achievement on the local level.
Georgia 4-H members also learn responsibility through livestock projects, programs and judging. Georgia 4-H partners with Georgia FFA and the UGA Department of Animal and Dairy Science to provide these programs. Every year, close to 2,500 students complete a year-long process to prepare more than 4,500 animals for exhibition at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show and other competitions.
To learn more about Georgia 4-H, go to georgia4h.org. To find out more about Georgia 4-H in your county, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1800-ASK-UGA1 or visit extension.uga.edu.
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)