Madison Magazine June-July 2019 - Page 8

camps, clubs and contests. Since signing up to partici- pate in 10th and sixth grade, Martin’s youngest sons (now ages 15 and 11) have taken part in various 4-H clubs. They have gotten to dabble in cooking and gardening, and have learned about leadership, nature and more. Their older sister Aryanna even started a babysitting business after being part of a 4-H babysitting class. Connecting Concepts Programs cover seven core- content areas including leader- ship, agriculture, animal sci- ence, engineering, technology, communications and expres- sive arts, according to Clark. “Since children have a wide variety of interests, we use these topics to engage them in our programs. All the while, they are developing their life skills,” she continued. Participant ages range from approximately 5 to 18 years. The youngest are Cloverbuds (ages 5-8). “(They) learn more about themselves and the world around them and de- velop a positive attitude about learning new things,” said Clark. “The Cloverbud’s pro- gram provides an excellent opportunity for children to reach their highest potential because early-life experiences, even subtle ones, affect future development.” Clark noted the main target age for 4-H is 9-18, adding that studies have shown that young people participating in 4-H are four times more likely to contribute to their communi- ties, and two times more likely to be civically active, make healthier lifestyle choices and participate in science, engi- neering and computer technol- ogy during out-of-school times. Additionally, 4-H girls are two to three times more likely to take part in science programs. Much of 4-H’s principles coordinate with what children are already learning in school and serves as emphasis for important concepts, and often different viewpoints about cur- rent subject matter in a learn- by-doing environment. Martin states the lessons have translated to her sons’ schoolwork and assists them in making educational connec- tions. Lasting lessons Logan Martin caught his first fish at 4-H camp in 2017. Another benefit of 4-H is allowing children to interact with positive adult lead- ers. Darst and Clark are adults Martin’s children can (and have) looked up to, the mother said. The 4-H agents have inspired her children and pushed them, as well as others, to be bet- ter versions of themselves. For both agents, a history with 4-H began during child- hood and has taught them the difference the program can make in young lives. Clark, who has been with Madison County 4-H since 2017, was introduced to 4-H in fourth grade where she par- ticipated in a communications Madison Magazine J U N E - J U LY 2 0 1 9 Skylar Collinsworth and her dad, Greg Collinsworth, learn coding together at Waco Elementary at the “Hour of Code” day presented by the school and Madison County 4-H. contest. Afterwards, she joined the teen council (serving in several roles), joined clubs and attended various events and 4-H camp every year until she was old enough to be an adult counselor. “I recognized all that this youth organization was doing for me, including building my communication, independence and leadership skills, all while giving me a sense of belong- ing,” she said recalling her decision to pursue 4-H as her career. Growing up, Darst and his older brothers were members of the local 4-H in his former West Virginia hometown. Darst said he could remem- ber attending meetings in a church basement, taking part in community service projects, holding several offices within the club and, of course, attend- ing 4-H Camp. As teen years approached, Darst’s parents divorced and he took it rather hard. “I was getting a reputation as a trouble maker...despite my negative reviews, the folks at 4-H Camp never judged me. Instead, they gave me more responsibility. “Camp was a safe haven where I didn’t have to think about family issues, and I could just be a kid. I felt safe, loved and accepted! The mem- ories built with my 4-H Club and camp will last a lifetime. It’s those memories that drew me back into the world of 4-H.” Darst explains that it was the idea of creating the same safe environment for other children that made him want to be an agent, a title he has claimed in Madison County for nearly 13 years. Today, Darst has even gotten his own children involved, not- ing they love coming to project days, club meetings and more. “My kids get some of their identity from my job,” he said. “Everywhere we go, some other child will recognize me and greet me...(My kids) un- derstand that they share me with a lot of other kids in this county.” While the job of 4-H agent is hard, for Darst and Clark, the end truly does justify the means. Because, Clark said, “To see just one student conquer their public speaking fear by partici- pating in the communications contests or to get pictures from a student who successfully grew a garden for the first time, each individual’s accom- plishments make all the extra hours, late nights and week- end programs well worth it.” For more information on 4-H clubs, programs and events, call the Madison County Extension Office at 859-623-4072 and visit the Madison County 4-H Facebook Page