By Madi Kregel, OCJ field reporter
Any former 4-H member surely remembers the pledge of the youth organization covering the four Hs: Head to clearer thinking, heart to greater loyalty, hands to larger service, health for better living…
The challenges of 2020 have not changed the importance or meaning of the four H’s but have provided new opportunities to carry them out. Sally McClaskey, the program manager at the state 4-H office for education and marketing, encourages 4-H’ers to look at their project books and work on them with the challenges of today’s situation and the 4-Hs in mind. She said Ohio 4-H Extension has 20 printable project books online at ohio4h.org.
“The important thing about any 4-H project is what the youth learns from it,” she said. “The responsibility of taking care of an animal or completing a project all the way through, seeing it through to completion and what they take away from it — that’s really what’s most important thing.”
McClaskey said it is still possible for members to practice their four Hs, even in the face of COVID-19.
“It’s just the way they’d use them any other time. Using your head to think through what you’re doing,” she said. “Service is such a hallmark of 4-H activities. Youth are starting to think of the kinds of things they can do from home.”
McClaskey pointed out a group of 4-H’ers who typically teach computer literacy primarily to older adults called the Tech Changemakers. She said during this quarantine some of the Tech Changemakers have used their skills to help other groups of people, including teachers who need help setting up lesson plans virtually. Another prime example is the 4-H appreciates you challenge.
“This challenge is helping youth understand that it’s certainly the medical people we think of, but they are also identifying all those people that you might not think of right away that are essential, people who pick up our trash, people who work in grocery stores and farmers,” McClaskey said.
The challenge got it’s start in the Wood County 4-H program where volunteers and families began an online effort to show their support for all essential workers with the hashtag #4Happreicatesyou. Back on March 24, Wood County Extension Educator, Jennifer Morlock, posted a call to action for members, volunteers, and alumni on the Wood County 4-H Extension Facebook page. Within a week, the hashtag hit five counties including Ottawa, Preble, Marion, Green, and Auglaize counties and reached state recognition by week two. Morlock said the initial question was “How can we reach as many people as possible?” with the goal of engaging their audience.
“It’s all about being a bright spot in the lives that need it most and showing our 4-H’ers we can make a difference no matter what obstacles we have,” Morlock said.
Governor Mike DeWine even gave a brief summary of the program in one of his press conferences with a note from Morlock and the photos of the Wood County 4-H’ers participating in the “4-H appreciates you challenge.”
“We thank you, Jennifer very much; thanks for all of the 4-H’ers out there for recognizing our essential workers,” DeWine said.
Lilly Westgate is in her last year as an eligible Wood County 4-H member. She and her family were some of the members that have had their “4-H appreciates you” pictures shared locally and statewide. Westgate said taking the time to show appreciation to essential workers created a time to bond for her family. She said the 4-H appreciates you challenge has made her more aware of essential jobs that are out there, and what is considered essential is “more clear” to her now.
“Throughout these exhausting times, it’s so much more than just getting up and going to work every day. It’s getting up, going to work, making sure everything is ok at work, making sure all of your employees are safe, and then coming home and making sure your family is safe,” Westgate said.
Despite not knowing what the summer will look like for Ohio 4-H, Westgate said she is willing to adjust accordingly.
“We’re preparing for the worst, which is for the best in all situations, because you can never expect what you’re going to get,” she said. “It’s a learning experience for everybody, but it’s important for remembering that this is tough for everyone and not just us as individuals.”
Chasitie Euler is a club advisor and a mother of two 4-H’ers in Wood County who participated in the earliest days of the 4-H appreciates you program. She talked about the opportunities 4-H has provided while in quarantine.
“Even as an advisor we try to keep it alive in our club. The State 4-H and the county 4-H has given us all these different kinds of opportunities,” Euler said. “Even though we know there is some uncertainty about what the county fairs could look like, it’s still a good time to dig in and get started on projects and stay focused.”
She hopes the 4-H appreciates you program impacts the community and highlights what 4-H is trying to strive for with “instilling those good qualities and the 4 Hs” in the youth of the community.
“I know that we all will have to make some sacrifices to work through all of this, and I hope that we as a community can keep 4-H engaged and thriving through all of this,” Euler said.
She praised the Wood County 4-H and Extension for their creativity and how they have “embraced the situation.”
“I am so thankful that we have such great leaders in Wood County that go over and above and they think of these great out-of-the-box ideas that really push us to think differently and to embrace the situation,” Euler said. “We took the fullness of the situation and tried to do something better out of it.”
The 2019 Wood County Junior Fair Royalty took some time to participate in the 4-H appreciates you program as well. The the county king and queen, Will Gase and Madison Dzierwa, organized for the court to take pictures with signs thanking essential workers with the 4-H appreciates you hashtag, and post the pictures via the court’s Facebook page. The court had planned to help out in the community during the summer before quarantine started.
Sam Eiben, who is on the court, is glad the 4-H appreciates you program has been able to demonstrate that 4-H is about more than what many people think.
“All around you have the 4 Hs, the head, heart, hands, and health, and I think it’s really helping to show the community that we are there for everyone and we’re thankful for all of those people that are still working,” he said.
Eiben is also volunteer firefighter and appreciates the supprt as a first responder too.
“It’s nice to know you have the community backing you,” he said. “It’s kind of a nice way to thank those who are still working on the front lines. It’s also a nice way to be out in the community still and show that we are still here and we are doing as much as we can to help out. We love to help people. It’s a way for us to represent Wood County, as well as the 4-H program as a whole.”