After more than a century in operation, the 4H program has changed to continue thriving, but its leaders stick by the adage, the more the program has changed, the more it’s stayed the same.
Cheryl Entriken, a regional 4H leader, says the focus remains on teaching young people leadership, citizenship, responsibility and life skills, though she emphasizes, it’s not just for farm kids.
“Rural young people are on the decline,” Entriken says. “As our farms are increasing, we have fewer young people who are actually being raised on our farms. 4H is not that way anymore. 4H is for all young people.” Entriken says the young club members rely on their elders.
Volunteers and adult leaders are sharing their time, talents, skills and creative ideas, she says, which is key to making the 4H program succeed. While raising livestock is still a popular area within the program, 4H is not limited to agricultural pursuits.
Entriken says members can jump into creative arts, consumer sciences, personal development, or science and technology.
“Anything that they really are interested in, if they come in, we can turn it in and fit it into a category where they could really grow and expand their interest,” she says.
There are more than 122,000 4H members in Nebraska, along with 22,000 adult volunteer leaders. Nationwide, 4H membership tops six-million.
The 4H program has been around since 1901.