The nonprofit “4-H” is traditionally viewed as a network for youth development designed for children and teenagers with a rural background to get involved with serving in their local community. Due to the nature of the program, it may not appeal to college students seeking to get involved serving in the local community.
A group of university students are looking to change that by reinstating the 4-H club that had disappeared from campus seven years prior. These students hope to encourage involvement in the community by bringing 4-H’s core values of head, heart, hands and health to campus.
Sophomore Meghan Lapointe, the president of the 4-H club on campus, has been personally involved with the nonprofit since she was 10.
“Our pledge is ‘my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world,’ Lapointe said.
4-H programs exist at more than 100 public universities across the nation and have helped approximately six million young people over the 100 years since its inception. The 4-H program started in 1902 as a small youth program that taught Ohio youth new farming techniques.
Since then, 4-H has grown into the nation’s largest youth development organization, teaching children and teenagers to “learn by doing” across a variety of areas and subjects.
“A lot of people think of it as just chickens and cows, but we’re so much more than that nowadays,” Lapointe explained. “We’ve expanded from just agriculture studies, we have a lot of programs in STEM, citizenship and healthy living.”
There have been several attempts in the past to start up a 4-H club at the university, but each time the students involved graduated, it ceased to exist on campus. The last record of 4-H’s presence on campus was in 2012. Lapointe decided to reinstate it last Spring with the help of Betsy Morris, the club’s advisor and corporate extension.
“This is an exciting time to join this revived campus organization,” Morris said. “It is open to all students with no prior 4-H experience necessary.”
In the few months it has existed on campus, the members of the university’s 4-H has done extensive work with local Delaware youth programs. They will be volunteering at an upcoming Holiday Fair, as well as making a presentation at a Delaware-based 4-H team conference in February.
In the coming months, 4-H also plans to volunteer at the Delaware Humane Association in Wilmington, a nonprofit nokill care and adoption center for cats and dogs. In preparation for their initial visit, the club crafted homemade dog toys and donated them to the animals there.
Due to the program’s deep rooted link to agriculture and farming, many of the group’s members are interested in animal sciences.
“The unique aspect of this group is that it is affiliated with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources,” Morris said. “This provides students a connection to South Campus even though they may not be enrolled in this college. Collegiate 4-H is the best of all worlds combining service, leadership development and fun!”
The 4-H club is considered a unique addition to campus, and its members intend to keep it here permanently. According to Lapointe, 4-H can only stay alive so long as members remain inspired, interested and dedicated to serving the community.
“Students can benefit from community service, leadership and professional development opportunities as well as experiences supporting youth and sharing their time and talents with the New Castle County and State 4-H Program,” Morris said. “A variety of activities are being planned so come check it out.”