The reach of 4-H throughout rural Nebraska is undeniable.
With agriculture serving as the state’s No. 1 industry, it makes sense that so many youth ages 5 through 19 participate in the organization – it’s a natural precursor to jumping into ag-related fields later in life.
In Platte County alone, local 4-H representatives estimate that 5,000 county youth are touched by 4-H in one way or another. Through clubs, school enrichment programs, after-school programs and camps, thousands feel the effect of 4-H, said Jill Goedeken, extension/youth 4-H development coordinator for Nebraska Extension-Platte County.
This month, the organization is celebrating for 28 straight days during Nebraska 4-H Month. The month serves as a way to recognize all of the accomplishments being made in 4-H locally and statewide, as well as operating as a way to recruit more members.
Goedeken noted that county 4-H enrollment is booming.
“I would say that at this point, as of Feb. 7, this is the highest enrollment that we’ve ever seen this early,” Goedeken said, adding that the year’s final enrollment date is April 1.
On Tuesday evening, 4-H staff met with community members at Pizza Ranch to fill them in on what 4-H is all about and how it is able to serve and benefit area youth.
Another activity scheduled as part of Nebraska 4-H Month included a Sunday kick-off party at Ag Park, where interested parties were able to attend and enjoy free food, a bounce house, movie and an assortment of other activities.
Students participating in 4-H this month are also encouraged to make desk/locker signs telling a little bit about their experience to generate excitement from their peers, released information from Nebraska Extension states.
“It’s very important to families and kids around here,” Goedeken said of 4-H. “Eighty-three percent of the kids in the county are engaged in 4-H in a variety of ways.”
One prospect 4-Her is 8-year-old Briggs Klug. His father, Beau Klug, serves as Platte County’s 4-H Council president.
“He’s been ready for a year or two now, he’s really excited for it and I think it’ll be a lot of fun,” Klug said.
Klug, a Columbus native, said that he was involved in 4-H as a child and that his father was a 4-H leader. Now, he and his wife, Crystal, are county 4-H leaders and volunteers.
“So, it has really come full circle,” he said.
Klug noted the Columbus community as a whole does an excellent job of supporting the organization. From the Platte County Board of Supervisors to local families and businesses, many play a role in making 4-H thrive locally.
“We are really lucky to have so many great volunteers and people who help out and play such a big role with what we do,” Klug said. “It (volunteerism) makes the world go round with what we do. We appreciate the fact that so many people get involved.”
Although Platte County students undoubtedly receive quality educations from their schooling – wherever it may be, Goedeken added that a 4-H education really does complement that learning.
“The whole goal of 4-H is to empower kids through a positive model where they build skills, confidence and a sense of community,” she said. “And we often are able to teach topics that are related to what they are learning in school, but in a way that is a unique experience that they would not have experienced at school."
For more information about the Platte County 4-H program, those interested are encouraged to contact Goedeken at 402-563-4901.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.