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4-H program seeks enrollment increase

By Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@ftimes.com

The Purdue Extension office is open for 4-H enrollment for youth in Clinton County from now until Jan. 15.

Enrollment is unlimited, but Purdue Extension of Clinton County’s Office Manager Bethany Perlee is hoping for an even bigger number than the 600 kids who joined last year.

All ages from third grade to high school seniors can take part in the program. Perlee said there are also additional programs kids in kindergarten through second grade can participate in.

Program areas for 4-H include agriculture, STEM, healthy living and civic engagement. The program also offers camps, workshops and scholarships opportunities for seniors who complete all 10 years.

As a previous 4-H participant herself, Perlee said the program is something she’s enjoyed giving back to. She said it’s great to be involved in and help the future generation grow into leaders.

“Everything I do today I learned in 4-H, including the leadership skills I have,” Perlee said.

Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development Caren Crum was also a tenure for 4-H. She added the leadership skills she gained throughout program helped her serve others.

“I think the biggest thing I learned; you can help others by serving them,” Crum said.

Since enrollment has started, Crum has been working with other team members to seek a higher enrollment level for this year. This includes reaching out to all children in county schools through their new Spark Club.

According to Crum, the Spark Club is to help recruit kids who are not necessarily involved in 4-H and ‘spark’ their interest. The club meets every month for the next three months to do holiday crafting.

Recently, the club held its first one and received a turn out of 24 kids, 11 of which were not involved in 4-H. There, kids participated in painted wooden pumpkins.

For kids interested in enrollment, the fee is $25, but if a family has four kids or more there is a discount which can be explained through the extension office.

Throughout the years 4-H has changed tremendously by adopting more technology and adding different projects to reach out to kids of every demographic. Perlee said these additions have helped the program grow nationwide.

The program now even offers a project called “mini animals” which includes guinea pigs, snakes and more, for kids who live in cities who can’t have livestock.

While the program gives kids the chance to feel accomplished by receiving plaques and ribbons, Perlee said nothing compares to the accomplishment someone feels in him or herself, especially those who completed all 10 years.

“Ten years is a commitment, and to be able to complete that commitment is a big thing,” she said.

“It’s a great resume builder and shows that you stuck with something for decade,” Crum added. “It’s definitely a program everyone wants to be involved with, child or adult.”

In addition to recruiting kids to take part in the 10-year venture, Crum said her team is all hands on deck. She said the more the team works together, the more impact it has in the community and out in the county.

“We always find it beneficial to tag team,” Crum said. “We want to touch those lives and let people know about the services we do offer.”

On top of the regular team Crum has, she also said the program could always use more volunteers. Currently, Crum reported she has 126 volunteers, but the program is always looking for club leaders, livestock superintendents or someone to help during the fair.

For those who can’t dedicate the time, Crum also mentioned the program accepts financial donations.

If a kid is not involved in the 4-H program but has participated in Spark Club, Crum said those kids can also showcase their work during the fair from July 13-20.