“You know, if every kid in the inner cities in this country belonged to 4-H, we wouldn’t have much of a crime problem,” said former U.S. president Bill Clinton in an address to Montana State University in 1995.
The public doesn’t often think of 4-H clubs as being a crime prevention tool, but it’s one of the many positive side effects of the program, which in Canada is celebrating 100 years in existence — B.C. marks 100 years of the program in 2014.
As part of the B.C. 4-H provincial council’s efforts to recruit new members, connect with alumni and attract sponsors, the “Revolution of Responsibility” tour was launched in 2012 with the help of $20,000 over two years corporate sponsorship from CIBC.
The results are tangible, with an increase in enrolment in 2013 of more than five per cent with 2,200 B.C. youth ages six to 21 involved in more than 160 clubs with more than 600 volunteer leaders in B.C. and the Yukon. While beef and horse projects are amongst the most popular, the Cloverbud program which introduces six to eight-year-olds to the program has quickly gained traction as have many non-agriculture 4-H projects like photography, outdoor living, canine and many others that urban youth can take part in with all the same benefits. This year nearly 20 per cent of the 4-H members in B.C are in non-agriculture programs. One quarter of 4-H enrolment in B.C. is in the Thompson-Okanagan region.
“There has been steady growth in those projects with both urban and rural members, because they can do more than one project at a time, a member could have a horse and do photography for instance,” said Kevin Rothwell, manager of B.C. 4-H
4-H is designed to develop the young people of today into the leaders of tomorrow by providing them with opportunities to learn and grow within their environment. 4-H’ers learn many life skills through the 4-H motto of “Learn To Do By Doing.” Members achieve lifelong learning through conducting meetings, holding an office position within their club, maintaining accurate records and public speaking opportunities. Working in a team, developing leadership skills, meeting deadlines, becoming responsible citizens, and giving back to their communities is all a part of the 4-H experience. These critical skills are developed using the four H’s that make up the 4-H symbol: Head, Heart, Health and Hands.
Joining 4-H gives youth scholarship and travel opportunities, Grade 11 and 12 school credits, the chance to meet new people from all over the province, Canada and other countries, provincial programs that focus on building leadership, teamwork and other fundamental life skills.
“I hear from employers that tell us if they see 4-H involvement on a young person’s resumé, that candidate moves to the top of the pile,” said Rothwell. “There are just so many good reasons to be involved and if that has world leaders thinking that it’s a great crime prevention tool, well that’s icing on the cake!”
A long-term American study started in 2007 by Tufts University has found that 4-H youth are twice as likely to be physically active, twice as likely to go to college or university and more than three times as likely to be involved in their communities, than their non 4-H peers.
Many B.C. 4-H programs like “Join the Revolution of Responsibility” are made possible with the generous support of partners like CIBC.
For more information visit www.bc4h.bc.ca, call 250-545-0336 or toll-free, 1-866-776-0373.