It has been part of the community fabric for more than 100 years and last year more than 1,100 Highland County kids participated in its programs. Those are just a couple reasons why Kathy Bruynis says Highland County has much to celebrate as Ohio 4-H Week is observed March 4-10.
Bruynis, a 1980 Hillsboro High School graduate who serves as a 4-H youth development leader and the county Extension director for Highland and Adams counties, is one of thousands of local residents who grew up with 4-H. She believes 4-H makes Highland County a better place to live.
“4-H is a big part of Highland County and it isn’t all about going to the fair or displaying your projects. That is just the icing on the cake,” Bruynis said. “4-H teaches youth how to be a good and productive citizen, has been a cornerstone of youth development in Highland County, and helps members learn and build life skills through hands-on learning. Those hands-on projects are in the areas of science, health, agriculture, citizenship and leadership. The skills learned help the member grow confidence, independence, resilience and compassion under the mentorship of caring adults. By keeping the 4-H pledge, 4-H makes Highland County a better place to live.”
The 4-H pledge says: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.
Highland County’s involvement with 4-H dates back to 1915, according to Bruynis. Today, she said the county has 39 clubs, including three new ones this year, and that members have more than 200 projects to choose from, including some that are self-determined if a member wants to explore something in more detail.
Kids interested in becoming part of 4-H this year have until April 1. Bruynis said 4-H representatives will be in third grade classrooms at all the public schools by the end of the day Friday. She said pamphlets will be given to all third-graders with information on how to contact a club adviser. Anyone is also welcome to contact the local Extension office at 937-393-1918.
Membership in 4-H is based on a child’s age and school grade as of Jan. 1 of the current year. Cloverbud participation begins when a child is age 4 and enrolled in kindergarten, and goes through second grade. Eligibility for participation in 4-H projects and competitive events begins when a child is 8 and in third grade. Any youth age 9 or above is eligible for project membership regardless of their grade level.
A youth’s eligibility for 4-H ends Dec. 31 of the year they turn 19.
A year ago a little more than 800 Highland County youths were enrolled in traditional 4-H programs and around another 350 took part in non-traditional programming through 4-H visits to local schools, Bruynis said.
This year, there are 136 returning 4-H volunteers in the county and approximately 25 new volunteers. For anyone interested in volunteering, the deadline is March 22.
The 4-H motto is: To make the best better.
“4‑H programs are grounded in the belief that kids learn best by doing,” Bruynis said. “Kids complete hands-on projects in areas like science, health, agriculture and citizenship in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take in proactive leadership roles. Kids can concentrate on one focus area or they can try a variety of programs throughout their 4‑H experience. Regardless of the project area, all 4‑H programs include mentoring and career readiness as core elements.
“4‑H programs are available in every county and parish in the U.S.”
According to Bruynis, the local 4‑H office is the best place to find out which programs are available in your area and how you can enroll a child. You can also learn directly at 4h.org.
Annual county memberships dues are $10 for Cloverbuds and $25 for those in the third grade or above. Bruynis said some clubs have memberships dues and/or fundraisers to help members with club T-shirts, fair passes, beginning or end of the year events, or even county dues.
She said Highland County would not be the same without 4-H.
“All the opportunity 4-H has to offer would be gone and it has so many opportunities to offer its members, from taking traditional projects, camping, and local, state and national trips,” Bruynis said. “Highland County 4-H members even had the opportunity to attend the presidential inauguration. 4-H has taught me more skills than any other program I have ever been involved in, and I am an alumni of the Highland County 4-H program.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.