Thursday, October 5, 2000

Members of what, you ask? The answer: they were 4-H members. And today, more than 6.5 million youth ages 9-15 participate in 4-H, a non-

formal education program and organization that can trace its roots back to the early 1900s.

National 4-H Week, to be celebrated Oct. 1-7, introduces Americans to an organization that offers youth opportunities in communications, leadership, career development, livestock, home improvement and computer technology. 4-H programs are found in rural and urban areas throughout the world and are instrumental in building life skills in youth and making communities better places to live and work.

While nationwide in scope, 4-H is uniquely Iowa. In 1902, the concept of bringing together boys and girls in a club setting complete with officers, projects, meetings and record requirements was adopted in Iowa by O.H. Benson in Wright County and Jessie Field Shambaugh in Page County. The movement grew and by 1914, clubs were started in nearly every state in the nation.

The involvement of Iowans in 4-H continues today. There are more than 130,000 youth and adult volunteers across Iowa with 4-H chapters active in each of the 99 counties. Iowa State University Extension reports that 12,000 youth - one out of every four Iowans in grades K-12 - are involved in 4-H.

What has made 4-H successful is its appeal to youth from all areas of the state. Slightly more than 60 percent of Iowa 4-H'ers live on farms or in communities of 10,000 or fewer while another 28 percent reside in cities of more than 50,000. Together, students explore areas of study that interest them and enhance their personal growth by attending camps, leadership programs and student exchange.

4-H, with the support of volunteers, will continue its long tradition of serving America's youth and the communities they live in.

Aaron Putze

Iowa Farm Bureau