4-H a powerful organization for children

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Growing up in rural Louisiana, I can still remember the joy of club day, when from fourth grade on, I got to go to 4-H meetings.

Almost my entire school was a member of the organization, whose purpose is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.”

The reason for high membership may or may not have been linked to our yearly field trip to the state fair.

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Looking back, so many of my memories from childhood involve 4-H.

When I was elected parliamentarian in fourth grade, I got my first exposure to Robert’s Rules of Order, which has helped me a lot more than I would have guessed at the time.

Every summer I couldn’t wait to go to Camp Grant Walker for a week packed with outdoor activities. When I got to high school, I started attending 4-H University each year at LSU, where I was fortunate enough to represent my parish as a voting delegate for the statewide organization.

As an equestrian, I always looked forward to the regional and state horse shows.

I met friends from other places who I still keep up with today. During our extended trips to the state show, we would always get a group together to go to the movies or out to eat for dinner.

I developed interests each year with the help of project books we were allowed to choose from an array of topics including gardening, animal science, culinary arts and wildlife habitats. In high school I always entered the honeybee essay contest, even winning cash prizes.

The umbrella of 4-H is how things got done in my community. We worked together to have a mural painted on a historic grocery store, and we installed a brick sign that reads, “Welcome to Doyline, population 841.”

These combined experiences made answering a question from MSU Extension Agent Anna McCain extremely easy: Of course I would love to help judge the 4-H projects.

I spent Monday morning examining leaf collections, birdhouses and other various crafts and collections from children in Warren County.

4-H has more than 6.5 million members spread out across 90,000 clubs in the U.S., and it provides an untold number of opportunities for children.

Anna McCain and, at least for a little while longer, John Coccaro, are doing great things at the Extension Office, and I for one would love to see more students in the county become involved.

Congratulations again on your upcoming second retirement, John Coccaro!

Austin Vining is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at austin.vining@vicksburgpost.com