That title got your attention, didn’t it? Now before you come at me with pitchforks and torches, hear me out.
If you have read my bio you will know that I work in Extension and even if I didn’t, I would still have a deep passion for 4-H in my heart. I love all of the opportunities that present themselves through 4-H. I love spending time with kids teaching them life skills and sharing passions that have been and still are very, very much a part of my life. I love seeing youth grow into productive, responsible, hardworking, caring, and community minded adults.
The title of this blog post is an actually paraphrased from a quote from a 4-H mother made to me as we were walking out of our trophy auction and donor’s lunch where several companies and individuals had literally just spent thousands of dollars supporting our organization. “That’s what 4-H is all about, working your ass off and getting nothing in return, huh, Amber.” The anger came instantly. How dare someone make comments like that as we are walking out of especially that event. How dare someone say something like that to people who spend countless hours both paid and unpaid making sure programs are organized, newsletters set, putting on project meetings, buying supplies for those meetings-often out of pocket, spending countless unpaid hours away from family. How. Dare. You. But as the evening went on I began to feel sadness for the individual who said that and her kids participating in our organization. Somewhere along the way for them 4-H became about the money being made rather than the experiences, lessons, and memories.
All I can say is that- If in 4-H you are “working your ass off” and getting nothing in return… you’re doing it wrong.
You will never “get rich” in 4-H
Sure that extra premium money you get from the livestock sale or the little extra ribbon money you get for a job well done is nice. Who wouldn’t agree. But that’s not the point of anything that you’re doing. The money you get for livestock is intended to help with cost associated with showing them, to help you to be able to continue your project- not give you a free ride. That’s part of the lessons you learn in 4-H. Life costs money.
You have options
4-H is a youth organization focused on providing participants with skills to last for a lifetime. Opportunities for classes in food and nutrition, woodworking, sewing, photography, entomology, rocketry, electricity, arts and crafts, livestock, and so, so much more which volunteers spend their time and money to put on for the youth is just the tip of the iceberg. Through each project offered a certain set of skills is obtained, you may choose to participate in everything offered or just a few that interest you.
Life skills are obtained
be it the actual skills you are learning in the different project, the tips, tricks and ideas you take home from leadership camps and events, or the subconscious things like being on time, speaking to adults, networking with others, respect, “practice makes perfect” etc. You learn things like dressing appropriately for certain occasions, volunteerism, speaking to people you don’t know, community development, interview skills, the impact of a good, strong handshake… I could go on and on.
Lifetime friends are made
Honestly, if you had told me when I was younger that I would have gone to college and knew a ton of people once I got there I would have told you that you were lying. My freshman year when I got to school I was honestly so surprised at how many people I knew because of 4-H and FFA events that I had been to. For a rather shy person who generally wouldn’t take initiative to go meet people, it was such a help to have people I was already at least a little familiar with. Even as we have all grown and gone on to our careers, families, and new places, we still keep up via social media. They are people with whom I share memories- not just in college, but youthful memories from 4-H and FFA with and people who I will always enjoy keeping up with and being friends with.
The memories made with family, schoolmates, and friends from across my county and state are memories that I will cherish for as long as I live. From late nights spent in the barn the night before the show washing, clipping, feeding, and honestly just horsing around. To show day shenanigans and sale night primping. From trips 5 miles out of town, across the state, or across the country for camps, conventions, retreats, or trainings. The laughs, the tears, the jokes, the heart to hearts and the obnoxious roadtrip karaoke sessions. In the moment I never would have guessed how all of those little snapshots of time were forming me into the person that I am today. Be it with my family or with the various groups I would have traveled with- they helped me grow into the woman I am today.
I credit 4-H (and FFA) to my successes to date. I can walk into an interview with confidence, I can look a potential employer in the eye and give a firm handshake. I am comfortable with speaking to groups. I learned how to manage money, how to pay bills, how and when to jump in and help where it is needed, I learned how to volunteer and the importance of volunteerism. I am more community minded. I have networking resources. I can participate in an organized meeting.
Sure, 4-H is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun too (If you’re taking full advantage of it)… and if “nothing” is what you are getting in return… you’re doing it all wrong.
love and peace,