County Agent: 4-H Volunteers help kids find their ‘spark’

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Pictured above: 2022 National Land Judging Team (left to right) … 4-H Volunteer Chris Ritts, Parker Arrington, Madison Dyar, 4-H Volunteer Jerri Whitlock, Gillian Ramponi, Aaron Boyd.

By BILL HAMMOND, Coweta County 4-H Agent

Coweta County 4-H offers over twenty special interest clubs and competition teams to help youth find their “spark” of excitement and belonging. With areas of interest like Agriculture, Horse & Pony, K9, Poultry, Dairy, Forestry, Land Judging, Consumer Judging, and shooting sports, there is a “spark” waiting to be ignited. But who is willing to help that young person search through their mundane to find their “spark?” Enter the 4-H Volunteer.

The 4-H Volunteer is someone who gives not only their time and energy, but also their knowledge, caring, compassion, and desire to see a young person thrive. By nurturing relationships and providing a place of belonging, 4-H Volunteers help youth thrive with an openness to challenge themselves and discover new and exciting endeavors. Here are just a few ways these amazing 4-H Volunteers help to ignite a “spark” inside the youth of our community.

Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness Fun & Education) is the 4-H shooting sports program with disciplines in Archery, BB, 22 Rimfire, Sporter Air Rifle, and Shotgun. All teams are led by phenomenal Coweta 4-H Volunteers. The Archery team, led by head coach Matt West, once boasted 70 to 80 dedicated archers with a dozen 4-H Volunteer coaches. After the effect of the pandemic, many coaches did not return. As a result, our once intimidating Archery Team has been much smaller at around 15 archers. Our Archery 4-H Volunteers dedicated nearly 150 hours of their time and talents to building up confidence, and mastery, and helping our 4-H’ers find their “spark” in a bow and an arrow.

Dogs hold a special place in the minds and hearts of children. That’s why the 4-H K9 club is popular with many of our younger 4-H’ers. Parker Arrington (2022 High School Graduate competing in the Dog Care and Training 4-H Project and now 4-H Staff) leads the club. The goal of the K9 club is to learn all aspects of dog care, grooming, and training through hands-on experiences. Participants are encouraged to bring their dogs, but dog ownership is not required. A crowning event is the annual 4-H Dog Show held during the Coweta County Fair. This year nearly thirty 4-H’ers in 1st through 11th grade have joined the 4-H K9 Club and look forward to finding their “spark” with their K9 companions and friends.

Holding to the Agricultural roots of 4-H, the 4-H Ag Discovery club provides an opportunity for 4-H’ers to find their “spark” through many different agricultural activities. Whether planting a seed, designing crop irrigation, learning how to care for rabbits, taking care of chickens, or teaching a goat how to navigate an obstacle course, 4-H’ers have many opportunities to interact with and learn about agriculture. Ag Discovery is led by Chris Ritts and Jerri Whitlock who not only devote countless hours to the Ag Discovery Club but also coordinate the Ag Barn for the county fair. With record attendance at this year’s fair, the 4-H volunteer spent countless hours planning, setting up, and taking care of the goats, pigs, sheep, cows, horses, and poultry were worthwhile as thousands of parents and children found “sparks” through hands-on experiences in agriculture.

Georgia 4-H Land Judging prepares youth to protect and improve land through leadership training and state competition. This program gives youth an appreciation for soil and the opportunity to learn soil structure, the power of erosion, classification, and proper land treatment. Land Judging teaches youth how to evaluate soils and understand best land uses in a fun, hands-on environment. Land Judging is all about doing! Youth determine soil properties by getting their hands dirty. In 2022, 4-H Volunteers Chris Ritts and Jerri Whitlock helped 4-H’ers find a “spark” for soil at the National Land Judging Competition in Oklahoma.

4-H Volunteers help 4-H’ers find “sparks” which many times grow into life-long passions and careers. Through these “sparks” 4-H’ers are four times more likely to give back to their community, two times more likely to make healthier choices, and two times more likely to be civilly active according to a 10-year study by Tufts University.

Many 4-H Volunteers were once active 4-H’ers themselves. Some never participated in 4-H growing up but see the value in the programs for their children. Several 4-H Volunteers have been igniting “sparks” for many years and, with children no longer in the program, may want to move on to other adventures. In Coweta County, we are dependent on our 4-H Volunteers. To keep many of our 4-H specialty clubs thriving, we are looking for dedicated, knowledgeable, volunteers who want to help 4-H’ers find a “spark” of interest to help them grow into their best possible selves. If you are interested in serving as a 4-H Volunteer, contact Bill Hammond, Coweta County 4-H Extension Agent at 770-254-2620 or [email protected]. Together we can help assist the youth of Coweta County in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society.

Bill Hammond is the Coweta County 4-H Youth Development Agent. His role includes overseeing all 4-H programming in the county including specialty clubs, S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education) teams, volunteers, school clubs, and other 4-H programs and events. 

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