4-H teaches life skills to young people

Photo by Nikki Blankenship Scioto County 4-H Extension Educator Jo Williams (left) discusses 4-H opportunties with Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen (center) and 4-H Teen Leader Kathaleen Kuhn.

By Nikki Blankenship


After a lifetime in 4-H, Kathaleen Kuhn is ready to encourage other young people to take part in all the program has to offer. Kuhn joined with Jo Williams, from the Ohio State 4-H extension office, to explain the importance of the 4-H program on youth development to Portsmouth Rotary members Monday afternoon.

Kuhn joined with Jo Williams, from the Ohio State 4-H extension office, to explain the importance of the 4-H program on youth development to Portsmouth Rotary members Monday afternoon.

“I think when most people think of 4-H, they think of taking a farm animal to the fair,” Williams explained.

However, she continued by stating that though a 4-Her can choose to raise and show livestock, there are over 200 projects offered by 4-H – projects that range from sewing to welding.

“You don’t have to live on a farm to participate in 4-H, even though you can and be very successful,” Williams added.

Williams has worked with 4-H since 2001. She explained that it is the kids that have kept her passionate about the program for so long.

“The thing that’s most rewarding about this job is watching them grow up and go through the program,” Williams said. “What’s even more rewarding is when they come back as adults to volunteer.”

She explained that 4-H helps children age five to 18 learn leadership skills, citizenship, life skills, communication skills and independence. It is through watching them grow and develop that Williams is able to see how much of an impact 4-H has on today’s youth.

Scioto County’s 4-H program has nearly 1,100 kids in 52 community clubs that are operated by more than 200 volunteers. Williams explained that most years, there are between 25 to 30 new volunteers. This year, however, there are approximately 60 attending 4-H volunteer training. It is through volunteer support that 4-H is able to continue each year.

Through 4-H, youth learns to give presentations, take part in meetings and even serve in an office in their club. Williams stated that this year she is hoping to increase members while also increasing the number of clubs.

“Some of our clubs were getting massive,” she stated, explaining that some have more than 50 members.

By increasing the number of clubs, more 4-Hers are able to serve in leadership positions and learn those roles while also learning how to behave in those roles.

“We try to start those leadership skills early,” Williams confirmed.

In addition to 4-H clubs and projects, Williams said that 4-H is active in the community through various events and classes.

The local 4-H office offers a variety of school programs including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), life sciences, financial literacy, after school programs and even Earth Day events. 4-H also collaborates with other local entities in order to make such programs a success.

For example, Williams explained that she often works with Jenny Richards, naturalist for the Shawnee Forest and Kate Sowards with the Soil and Water District. The local 4-H office even holds events for multiple school districts and the community including an annual agriculture day.

“We have a lot of things throughout the year that we do with the school systems,” Williams stated.

She added that many of these programs include working with children on team activities that are fun and interactive.

Throughout her time with 4-H, Williams has seen several success stories. She explained that she had a student that started with a sewing project. Through that one experience, she found her passion and eventually her career. That student went to college for fashion design and now works for American clothing company The Limited.

Kuhn is yet another example of how 4-H can make a difference in a child’s life.

“I don’t know where I’d be without 4-H,” Kuhn said.

She explained that her mom was the local extension agent prior to Williams, so 4-H has been a part of Kuhn’s entire life.

“It’s been deeply ingrained in me,” she commented.

Kuhn explained that 4-H has opened up a lot of opportunities for her including her college degree. Kuhn, a high school student, will be attending college at Ohio State University, where thanks to 4-H, she will getting a scholarship to help cover her tuition.

She added that she has also attending 4-H camps, traveled to other community fairs and festivals as the 2016 Scioto County Fair Queen, got her boating license on a 4-H Sea Camp trip to Lake Erie, has presented to members of Senate and has even attended a presidential inauguration. In 2013, Kuhn traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of the 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus Trip.

“I never imagined I would stand in the National Mall and see the President take the oath of office,” Kuhn stated. “4-H has helped me prepare for all of these things.”

Through all of these experiences, Kuhn says she has not only made friends and explored interests but has gained confidence, stating that she would not have even been able to present to the local Rotary five years ago.

Unfortunately, Williams explained that 4-H has been on the decline. She stated that it is has plateaued the past couple years but had declined prior. She added that there are not many clubs in the Portsmouth/New Boston area. Any kid can join any club. They do not have to join a club within their school district.

Still, transportation can be difficult. Williams would like to see more clubs, making 4-H more accessible to all children.

“I’d love to see more clubs here in the city,” Williams stressed.

She added that since the program is volunteer driven, it would take volunteers in the area to add more urban clubs.

Cost for joining 4-H can be great or small, depending on the project. There is a $6 fee for a project book and a $5 county activity fee that opts children out of fundraising for that portion of dues. 4-Hers may also have to buy project items and pay fees for events and camps.

Children can choose to join 4-H at anytime; however, they must register by May 1 in order to take part in competitions. For more information about signing up for 4-H or to become a volunteer, call the local extension office at 740-354-7879 or check out the Scioto County 4-H page on Facebook.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.