UConn 4-H

We Want You to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

eating strawberry
Photo: Amy Walker

Do you enjoy working with children? Want to share your time and talents with young people in the community? Like to have fun, learn new skills and make a difference? Then being a 4-H volunteer is for you!

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth to reach their potential. As a volunteer, you will help youth in your group learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through projects and activities. If you have a hobby or interest you would like to share with young people such as photography, leadership, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, rocketry and more, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.

Start volunteering today by going to https://bit.ly/2Oj4TkU

My 4-H Story: Hannah Platt

4-H logo

For the past eight years 4-H has taught me many things that I probably would not have learned without it.  I have experienced how the association for the fair works over the past few years. I learned that without it, the fair would not happen.  Every one of the officers has their own role and has to stick to doing what they have pledged to do over the year in office such as sticking to their specific agenda and timeline, writing officer reports, and attending meetings.  I have learned a lot from helping at my brother’s school and how much effort it takes for some of the kids to do something that may be easy for us to do. It has taught me patience, tolerance, and compassion.

From 4-H, I have made certain goals that I probably would not have set without it.  For example, I would not have knitted certain projects if I did not set the goal to make something for 4-H.  It pushed me to knit something more difficult. I set a goal to learn how to canter off of the lunge line. This is something that I was not keen to when I started but made it a goal for 4-H.  I have also set a goal to either do public speaking, expressive arts, or even both. I learned that setting goals will help you achieve something more than if you just think about it.

From my leadership roles, I love seeing what I can do for other people whether it is making them smile or helping them do something that they need help with.  After helping someone, I feel glad that I made a difference. In Home Arts, I enjoy being a part of transforming the building from an empty barn to a barn full of wonderful projects displayed on tables, organized by category, covered with green and purple table cloths.

I have found that it is difficult for everyone in the meeting to agree on something.  Being a new coordinator, I was told that it would be my ultimate decision but still found it a little difficult to negotiate with people who had very strong opinions.  Also, when it is clean-up time for the end of the fair, a lot of people helped out during the first helf hour to an hour but after that, they did not help as much to clean up the tables and other things that had to be put away for the barn to be cleaned.  Something else that is difficult is not having people show up to the barn when they committed to help out during the weekend.

I need to learn to voice my opinion.  Most of the time, I have the right answer or right question, but I do not tell it.  This is something that I have been working on so I do not let something pass over if either I do not agree with it or have a question about something.  Something else that I need to learn is to feel comfortable in a group of people that I do not know. I am a shy person and do not speak up when I do not know who someone is.  In order to be a leader, people have to know what you want from them. You have to be able to handle criticism and understand someone else’s perspective.

From this past year of being the coordinator, I have been a lot better about speaking up and voicing my opinion.  While I was on CWF, I learned how to come out of my shell and not always need to feel that I need to be quiet or not speak up.  This trip has made me the most outgoing I have ever been in my life. It was an experience that I would never be able to take back nor would I want to.   I made a great bond with my county extension leader and have been able to talk with confidence I have never experienced before this trip.

The leadership abilities that I learn in 4-H will help me in the future because I will know how to lead something in the correct way and not in a rude or disrespectful way.  Everything that I learn in 4-H will help me with many things in the future such as: goal setting, short and long term goals, discussing different opinions and coming to a consensus.  I will know how to mentor someone in the future as others have mentored me. 4-H has also helped me to become curious and try new things. This a great way to come out of your comfort zone.

By Hannah Platt

My 4-H Story: Elizabeth Hall

To some people my 4-H story might seem dull, but to me it has been an exciting adventure!  4-H has taught me responsibility and how my actions can positively affect my community. I have also learned leadership and citizenship skills that I have been able to incorporate into activities outside of 4-H.

Setting goals in my project area has encouraged me to always strive to make the best better.  I have also come to realize that setting the goal is what is important, not necessarily the attainment.  I have found that it is important to rise to the challenge of pursuing my goals whether I attain them or not.  For example, I set a goal last year to earn my CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Title with my dog, participate in local 4-H dog shows, and show my dog at the Big E.  I accomplished earning my CGC title with my dog and showing in local 4-H dog shows. I decided not to show my dog at the Big E because I knew she wasn’t ready.  Not attaining that part of my goal has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments and learn from my mistakes.

By participating in my community I have been able to share my enthusiasm for 4-H with many youth.  I was invited to visit an afterschool 4-H Explorer club and talk to the members about my 4-H dog project.  At the afterschool 4-H Explorer club I brought my dog and did a few demonstrations of what I do in 4-H. I found it rewarding to see how much the kids enjoyed asking questions about 4-H and playing with my dog.  I am glad that I can share my passion for dogs and 4-H with the public.

4-H has given me the ability to become a leader and problem-solver.  These are skills that will benefit me my entire life. I want to give back to 4-H by empowering other youth.  I want to share with them the strengths and opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to gain through 4-H.  I look forward to future years in 4-H in which I can perfect my citizenship and leadership skills to benefit my club, my community, my country and my world.

By Elizabeth Hall

My 4-H Story: Chloe Smith

I Found Myself at 4-H Camp

Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Chloe Smith

It’s not very often that someone reflects on defining moments in their life but when I take a moment to reflect on my life so far, the biggest influence that comes to mind is the eight years I’ve spent in the 4-H program and how the 4-H program has shaped who I am, and also helped me understand who I want to be.

I started going to 4-H camp when I was 8 years old.  When most people think of 4-H camp, they immediately think of farming but our camp is the only 4-H camp in the area that is not agriculturally based, it is centered around leadership.  When I was a younger camper, I did not necessarily understand what being a leadership camp meant but I knew I respected and looked up to the teens in our camp and hoped to someday become one of them and achieve that same respect and level of impact.

In the summer before 9th grade, I became part of the Teen Leader program, which was mainly focused on leadership.  We did a lot of team building within the program and I started to take on a lot more responsibility with younger campers.  The following year I got promoted to a junior staff, which is another leadership-based program.

In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I became a member of the Connecticut 4-H Teen Ambassador Program.  This program consists of teens from all over Connecticut and even a few out of state. Within the Connecticut Teen Ambassador Program, we meet once or twice a month to do community service projects, discuss important current issues and figure out new ways to help around our community and within our 4-H programs.

During this time, I was also learning to engage a group or speak to a crowd.  Sitting in a group of 50 or so teens we would pass around a microphone and share something, literally anything about ourselves.  One person would say they got their driver’s license or aced a test and the next person would say that their socks didn’t match. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was a leadership exercise focused on confidence and the ability to speak to a crowd, to reach an audience.  This confidence was something that helped me realize I want to work with children and help them develop their natural abilities.

I have helped plan a teen leader weekend conference with other teens from around New England.  I’ve developed my public speaking skills by giving presentations about the New London County 4-H Camp and Teen Ambassador program at the Big E.  I’ve gotten to experience once in a lifetime experiences.

In 2017, I was selected as one of the forty-three delegates to represent Connecticut at the annual Washington Focus trip in D.C.  On this trip I was able to meet so many different people from across the United States while developing my communication, leadership and citizenship skills.  I’ve learned so many skills and learned what I love to do, and I love working with people, especially kids.

Through all my work with the 4-H program I have gained more of a leadership role, it has made me realize I want to pursue a career in education of young children.  I strive to be someone that kids can look up to.

As I end my 4-H story, I reflect on how grateful I am that I became part of the 4-H Program and now have the privilege to be in a leadership role to give back to children as they start their own 4-H story.  

By Chloe Smith

We Want You to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

Do you enjoy working with children? Want to share your time and talents with young people in the community? Like to have fun, learn new skills and make a difference? Then being a 4-H volunteer is for you!

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth to reach their potential. As a volunteer, you will help youth in your group learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through projects and activities. If you have a hobby or interest you would like to share with young people such as photography, leadership, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, rocketry and more, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.

Start volunteering today by going to https://bit.ly/2Oj4TkU

National Hand Washing Week

As part of Marc Cournoyer’s involvement with the Healthy Homes Partnership, he created a poster contest to recognize national hand washing awareness week which runs from Dec. 2-8.  Some of the kids from the Windham Heights 4-H club created posters to educate the public on the importance of hand washing. Marc is a UConn Extension 4-H educator.

Ken Trice: 4-H Volunteer Spotlight

Ken Trice volunteering at Tolland County 4-H program4-H affiliation: Tolland County 4-H Advisory Committee member
How did you learn about 4-H
Fifteen years ago visiting the Tolland County 4-H Fair with my 3 daughters (then ages 8, 6,and 4). At the time the oldest two registered for the upcoming 4-H year with the Willy Nilly 4-H club. The youngest was a sort of mascot for two years.
What is your favorite memory
Really too many to list. But, most surprising was my middle daughter actually getting dirty with her goat at an obstacle course. This was a total surprise to my wife and me.
How does 4-H meet your needs
Best organization ever for my daughters and me. Both, they and I, learned and grew with the involvement in 4-H. It has provided me with the ability to give back to other young folks up in coming in 4-H. The Trice girls swear by 4-H

Garret Basiel: From 4-H Project to College Essay

Garret Basiel was a 4-H member in Middlesex County and is a freshman at UConn this fall in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. This is the college essay he submitted with his application.

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

My fingers felt raw, but I once again pulled back the bowstring and aimed down range at the target. After my quick lesson on safety and proper form, I spent at least four hours at the archery range that day in 2010 during my local 4-H fair. The arrows skewed across both the target and ground alike, but every time one hit anywhere near the center of the target, I was delighted. This single positive experience led me to learn not only about fletchings and points but about myself too.

As a novice 4-H club member, I made a very small contribution on the range when we brought our equipment out to local fairs. After hauling out the targets and setting up a safety line, I might chip in information on a shooter’s form every once in a while, telling them to “straighten your feet” or “keep pulling back,” but I still lacked the confidence to address the masses that poured through our setup. Despite these crowds, I managed to find time to shoot for myself. I would launch as many arrows as I could, reducing me to sore set of fingers and a pair of tired arms trembling, just as they were my first time there. A year rolled past and, thanks to my club leaders, I was able to consistently nail the bull’s eye.

Yet as my skill increased, my confidence and courage did too, and I came to discover how much I enjoyed assisting others. By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered. I shared their excitement as their skill progressed having heard “Look what I just shot!” and taking part in high fives more than a few times. My shyness was clearly on the way out.

As I matured and gained more experience over the years, I was able to fulfill assorted jobs on the fair ranges. Older club members, who used to help people put on their arm guards or teach them how to shoot, aged out, leaving me with more responsibility. I felt comfortable walking adults and teenagers through the process, but my hardest challenge was helping young children, who struggle to listen to instructions and even to pull back the bow string. I still remember the first girl who I knelt next to. I helped her straighten her arm and adjust her feet before I helped her tug back the bowstring. I urged her “Keep pulling, you’re almost there” as I had heard my club leader say so many times before. We both smiled when her arrows hit the target. Each year I have helped at the archery range I have become more dependable. Now I even run the range, not only teaching but announcing “Begin shooting” or “Go get your arrows” whenever my leader is busy.

I am very grateful that teaching archery helped me come out of my shell. Addressing the groups of people coming through our archery range gave me new found courage that has carried over into my other parts of my life. I now take on leadership roles in class, finding myself leading groups through trigonometry projects, and at cross country meets I feel more comfortable conversing with other runners. I feel ready to bring this same confidence over to my upcoming college years.

Remembering Grace Hanlon

Grace HanlonGrace Hanlon began her experience at the New London County 4-H Camp at the age of 7.  The camp, situated on 24 ½ acres in Franklin, CT, provides both day and over-night camping experiences to over 2,100 youth annually. 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. As part of the University of Connecticut, 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential. The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages 5-18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of their families and communities.

Don Beebe, President of the New London County 4-H Camp Foundation recalls, “Grace was tiny but had a big personality. She was a great camper, always enthusiastic and with a wonderful smile. She grew into a very capable young lady with a can-do attitude, participating in the camp’s Teen Leader Program as well as the 4-H Teen Ambassador Program.” Unfortunately Grace’s life ended in 2016 at the age of sixteen in a car accident, leaving her family, friends and the 4-H camp devastated and searching for a way to honor and remember her.

After her death, Grace’s mother, Beth Hanlon, invited some of Grace’s camp friends over to talk about a fund that had been started after Grace’s death in support of the 4-H camp. One of the reasons the camp was chosen for the fund was that Grace was packed and ready to go to camp days before her death. Beth explained, “She loved it there. We wanted to hear about her experience from her camp friends and ask them how the funds should be used at the camp.” The group discussed things needed at camp that would represent Grace. It started as a structure for the counselors and Teen Leaders. The conversation eventually evolved into a multi-purpose structure abutting the dining hall and the project which quickly became known as “Grace’s Place” took off from there.

The addition’s construction began right after Thanksgiving that year. One of Grace’s friends mentioned that her father had a construction company and would like to help.group of 4-Hers at New London County 4-H Camp About a week later, Beth received a text from the young lady saying, “My Dad’s name is Dan and he’s expecting a call from you.” At that point they needed to obtain other contractors and professionals to move the project forward. Beth added, “We have never built anything. General contractors we are not, and we have also never lost a child before. We were in the early stages of grief and not really sure what we were doing or why we were doing it.”

Paul Hanlon, Grace’s father, explained that this project in Grace’s name has been very therapeutic. It provides us with something to focus on and have control over.” Beth added, “the biggest piece we have taken from this from the day the accident happened and throughout the building project has been the unbelievable support.” As an example, Paul explained that they had huge trusses and beams that had to be put in place, and the builders said when they arrive, we are going to need a crane. Paul had no idea where he was going to get such a large piece of equipment.  He actually googled crane companies and contacted a company by filling out information on their website. Under additional comments Paul explained what the project was for. A company responded shortly thereafter that if they could come on the weekend, the owner would do it for free. They completed the work on Memorial Day weekend right after major storms had devastated parts of Connecticut, so they were extremely busy. This company had no connection to Grace or the camp, but felt it was the right thing to do.

Grace's Place at New London County 4-H CampPaul explained that Grace was very social. “She taught me to be social,” he added. In order to make this project happen we had to come up with ways to raise money. The ways they have come up with so far have been community social events – trivia nights that have to be capped because of the enthusiasm and interest. Beth adds that this is about the camp and the kids. It’s a multi-purpose building that so many youths will benefit from. I know how much they need the space and how much it means to them.”

“This is an incredible addition to the camp,” Don Beebe said. “The fact that it’s tied to Grace actually adds another dimension because it’s not just going to be a building. Her story will be told forever. I think that’s quite a tribute to Grace and to her family who are allowing this to happen. This addition is hard for anyone to take on especially a family that is grieving. Construction is very expensive. They themselves have put a lot of their own time and money into this project. This is a program Grace clearly loved and excelled at. Her story will be a great inspiration to help young people understand the value of the program and what it did for her. It’s also a great thing for the community. Our teen program is growing. To actually have a place where the teens can meet and have activities will be extremely helpful. Obviously, it’s very sad to lose a child, but the fact that this family was able to turn such a tragic thing into such a happy thing is amazing.” Grace Hanlon will be affecting the lives of many youth in such a positive and inspiring manner. What a wonderful way to be remembered.

For more information about Grace’s Place visit the web site at https://gracesplace4h.com.To learn more about 4-H programs visit http://www.4-h.uconn.edu/index.php.

Article by Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development

Emily Alger: Changing Lives Through 4-H

Emily Alger
Photo: Defining Studios

UConn 4-H is a statewide program with educators in all eight counties. Each of our 4-H educators brings unique skills and life experiences to the program.

If there is one experience that has opened Emily Alger’s eyes to how special the 4-H program is, it would be asking the high school field hockey team that she coaches to participate in the National 4-H Science Experiment. Each year National 4-H Council introduces a new science experiment that 4-H members across the country take part in. In 2017 the Science Day Challenge was “Incredible Wearables”, a hands-on STEM project that challenges young people to build a wearable fitness tracker that will help people lead healthier lives. Emily explains that, “the team is not exposed to 4-H activities or our culture. Yet I walk in and hand them the science kits and the handbook, divide them into groups and ask them to complete the experiment, and every year I get responses saying it was my favorite activity of the year and we should be doing this in school.” Emily adds, “You can’t understand the impact of what we do until you introduce it to youth outside of the program and see their responses.”

As the Middlesex County 4-H Program Coordinator, Emily works with a variety of exciting and unique programs. Her introduction to 4-H came as a member at the age of seven. Emily participated in a variety of projects and was a regular participant in the 4-H fair. It remains to this day one of the aspects of her work that she is most proud of, emphasizing the patience and nurturing necessary to commit to a youth driven program such as the 4-H Fair.

“We were the first fair to have an entire youth board of directors. There are no voting adults in Middlesex County. Each youth is paired with a mentor and is responsible for their job description. We have a full fair manual. Everybody has to complete and submit reports. It’s really run by the youth. It takes a lot of follow-up to make sure that things move forward smoothly, but we are committed to it. I think the place it shows up the most is that our millennials are dying to get back into this program and mentor. Not only did they learn how to do a job and take pride in it, they want to teach another youth to do that job. They want to be the person who passes that on. They recognize they don’t have the time or space to be traditional club leaders, but they recognize how important the program has been to their life,” she says.

Emily was also destined to be around animals. As a 4-H member her project work focused on smaller animals such as poultry and rabbits. It wasn’t until she graduated from college that she got her first horse. She initially began volunteering with the 4-H horse program, serving on the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee and helping to put on horse shows. This led to her current role as the statewide 4-H Equine Program Coordinator.

Emily works extensively with UConn Equine Extension Specialist, Dr. Jenifer Nadeau. Both bring a wealth of personal experience and knowledge to the UConn 4-H Horse Program. Emily feels the program is well respected. Very few youths in Connecticut have the luxury of owning a horse, so Emily and Jen have started doing things a little differently. One example involves working with training stables to foster the academic portion of the horse project while giving youth access to horses they cannot own or have in their backyard. They have also begun to work with rescue groups.

When asked why UConn Extension and the 4-H Program matter, Emily is quick to respond that Extension work is vital. “You never have to tell 4-H members about the importance of community service. The 4-H program is a culture of helping others. So many of the things that we naturally teach in 4-H are missing from other aspects of society.

4-H members are connected to caring adults who stand by them and encourage them when they are not holding up their end of the bargain. They understand how to be respectful and conduct themselves in public. Ultimately, 4-H celebrates our youth individually for the skills they bring to the table.

Article by Nancy Wilhelm