Students gain experience through 4H

Students in 4-H get the opportunity for agriculture experience by raising an animal of their choice. The program also offers engineering and science education, as well as various other activities.
Thousands of students in kindergarten through 12th grade participate in 4-H in Oregon every year, making it the largest out of school program in the United States.

The name represents the four areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands and health. Although 4-H is typically thought of as an agriculturally focused group, it also provides scientific and engineering education, leadership and citizenship projects and expressive arts programs.

Through the Animal Science portion, participants have the opportunity to raise an animal of their choosing, such as cattle or pigs, and later auction them off at the county or state fair.

Sophomore Amber Nelson has been involved in 4-H since she was five years old. She participates in cooking and photography through the program, along with raising an animal. This year she has chosen to take on a swine project.

“Once you [your pig] weigh in at 230 pounds you have an opportunity to go to auction,” Nelson said. “You have to watch and make sure your animal makes a weight gain every day.”

Junior Cole Smith has participated in 4-H since the seventh grade. He is also doing a swine project.

“My favorite part is raising them up from when they are babies,” Smith said.

Participants like Nelson are completely responsible for feeding and caring for the animals on a daily basis. They must also care for their animal’s medical needs, such as taking them to the vet when necessary.

“I wake up every morning and make sure they have clean food and water and do it again after school,” Nelson said.

According to the 4-H website, the program aims to teach independence by allowing members to make their own decisions and be responsible for their actions, as well as helping them to establish positive relationships with adults and their peers.

“You have to learn to take care of something other than yourself,” Nelson said.

Rhonda Fischer has been involved in 4-H for over 30 years. She works as a secretary for the Oregon State 4-H extension office and volunteers as a leader for her club based in Myrtle Point.

“A big part of the job is helping kids with their projects and to build self-esteem,” Fischer said. “We want to help them grow as people and in leadership.”

Members also have the opportunity to earn scholarships throughout the program. In Oregon, 15 scholarships are available to college bound seniors who have been involved in the program for three years. There are also scholarships that will be awarded to those who have been active at the 4-H County Fair and a local memorial scholarship. Last year nearly $19,000 was awarded by the Oregon State 4-H program.

“A lot of the funding for the scholarships is due to the members of the community and business that come to auction and bid and support our club,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the club has a lasting impact on each participant.

“Since anyone can join at such a young age, the program is something that you grow with,” Fischer said. “It stays with you forever.”