CLEMSON — More South Carolina youth are turning to 4-H to stoke their interests in science, new data show.
Participation increased 12 percent last year in South Carolina 4-H, the youth-development arm of Clemson University Cooperative Extension. That follows growth of nearly 10 percent a year ago. Programs cover animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and much more.
Clemson Extension has proactively expanded 4-H programming and hired more 4-H agents throughout the state as part of a five-year strategic plan focused on strengthening communities. Participants in 4-H are twice as likely to be civically active, live healthier and participate in science, engineering and computer technology programs in schools, according to a study by Tufts University.
“We see the difference 4-H makes in children’s lives every day. 4-H teaches leadership, instills confidence and offers hands-on learning opportunities that some children may not receive elsewhere,” said Pamela Ardern, South Carolina 4-H program leader. “We are thankful for investments from the South Carolina General Assembly that have allowed us to hire more 4-H agents and reach more youth throughout the state.”
South Carolina 4-H has hired nine new agents in the past two years, with two more joining the team this summer. In addition to the work of agents, 4-H is buoyed by the support of nearly 4,000 volunteers across the state.
More than 104,400 young people in kindergarten through 12th grades participated in 4-H programming last year. Roughly 53 percent of 4-H participants are white; 39 percent are African-American and 7 percent are Hispanic, figures that closely mirror South Carolina population demographics, Ardern said.
“That is very significant. We work hard to ensure 4-H programming is available to all children in South Carolina,” Ardern said.
Participants of the South Carolina 4-H Horse Program recently won national championships in consecutive years at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup held annually in Kentucky. Last year, a team of South Carolina 4-hers placed second in a national healthy-cooking contest in New Orleans.
New 4-H programs and clubs are added each year. A new Honey Bee project is helping young people to become junior beekeepers, teaching them the basics of entomology and the role pollinators play in the global food supply.
Last year, the inaugural 4-H Clementa Pinckney Leadership Conference brought young people from across the state to Clemson’s campus to participate in numerous activities designed to promote teamwork, leadership and citizenship.
The weeklong leadership camp returns to Clemson this summer with sessions June 18-24 and July 23-29. This is just one of many 4-H camps offered during the summer. South Carolina 4-H also has added new programs to teach financial management as well programs with a focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)
“We have really increased our number of programs within the schools,” Ardern said.
South Carolina 4-H is working to connect its 4-H alumni. Register as a 4-H alumnus online by visiting the story at newsstand.clemson.edu/mediarelations/statewide-4-h-participation-continues-to-grow/
Scott Miller is with Public Service and Agriculture at Clemson University.