The year 2012 marks the centennial for Utah State University Extension 4-H, part of the nation's largest youth development organization. The theme, "Celebrating the Past, Creating the Future," will be integrated into 4-H events held around the state through the year.
Widely known for its early roots in cooking and agriculture, 4-H has grown during the last century to include offerings such as rocketry, robotics and global positioning systems.
The organization reaches every corner of the country with more than 6 million youths in urban neighborhoods, suburban schoolyards and rural farming communities and supports young people from elementary school through high school, according to 4-H.org. Head, heart, hands and health are the four H's in 4-H and are the four values members work on while participating in the program.
According to Kevin Kesler, USU Extension director of Utah 4-H programs, many people attribute their success to 4-H.
"It is amazing how many people tell me they were in 4-H as a youth, and they then tell me how much 4-H contributed to their success in life," he said. "We hope that the 4-H centennial events held around the state will provide an opportunity for 4-H alumni to come together and also to experience today's 4-H program."
According to Kesler, there are approximately 8,000 volunteers in Utah working with more than 75,000 youths in the Utah 4-H Program.
The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, shows young people involved with 4-H are nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school, nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college, 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors and 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.
The research-driven programming of 4-H allows young people to engage in issues from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety, according to 4-H.org. Out-of-school 4-H programs, in-school enrichment programs, clubs and camps also offer a wide variety of science, engineering, technology and applied math educational opportunities.
"Celebrating the Past, Creating the Future," Utah 4-H's state centennial celebration will be held Thursday, July 12, through Saturday, July 14, at Utah State University. Activities will include youth and adult workshops, youth contests, a 4-H alumni reunion, 4-H Hall of Fame awards, banquets, a barbecue on the quad, games, alumni contests and awards. Individual county events will also be held throughout the year. Contact specific county Extension offices for more information.
Kesler said it is his goal that by the end of the 4-H centennial year, everyone in the state will know that 4-H is alive and well.
"We invite everyone to join 4-H alumni and friends in 'Celebrating the Past, Creating the Future,'" he said.
For further information on Utah Extension's 4-H centennial celebration, contact Kesler's office at 435-797-4444 or visit utah4h.org.