Eye on Extension: Youth take advantage of officer opportunities

VALLEY — The new 4-H year is officially underway. As clubs have their first meetings of the new year, it’s time to elect youth officers. Serving as a club or council officer can be one of the most impactful aspects of the 4-H experience.

The 4-H youth development program is primarily delivered through community clubs. These clubs are organized by adult volunteers. They guide youth members, who lead club meetings in roles like president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

I had the opportunity to have every one of these jobs in my club, the Warren Hotshots, when I was growing up in northern Illinois. I learned important skills with each job. Over my 4-H career, I was able to work my way up from club reporter, all the way to president.

Valley youth in our 14 community clubs now have that same opportunity. I strongly encourage all of the local 4-Hers to throw their hats in the ring at their local club elections. Each position presents valuable skill building opportunities. Secretaries learn record keeping, while treasurers master check writing, balancing accounts, and preparing basic financial reports. The president and vice president get practice running meetings, planning agendas and managing groups.

All of these experiences help youth to improve their organizational and leadership abilities. Plus, each club’s officer group gets practice with teamwork as they work together to achieve shared goals.

Aside from club offices, youth can run for county and district council positions. These regional leadership roles come with added responsibility, such as helping plan the regional Achievement Night event, which takes place in December.

In addition, district officers represent the Valley on state camp planning teams. Local 4-Hers Kristine Hoffner, the district president, and Johnnie Torr, the district vice president, just helped organize the Colorado Leadership Camp and Dare to Be You Camp respectively. These two events, planned and run entirely by youth officer teams, provided fun and learning to more than 200 Colorado 4-H members last weekend.

Running for office on any level can seem intimidating, but there is lots of help and support available to youth looking to take on these responsibilities. Club leaders, experienced youth officers, and the 4-H office can all help mentor new officers. In addition, the local 4-H office helps plan a regional officer training event, which will take place January 20, in Pueblo. Overall though, youth embrace the 4-H motto of “learning by doing” by growing into their roles as they gain experience.

I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes as I learned how to be a leader in my 4-H club more than 20 years ago. Each one was an opportunity to learn and grow that I embraced. I know those leadership experiences helped shaped the person I am today. I hope local youth have those same opportunities here in the San Luis Valley as they start the new 4-H year.

Amy Henschen is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Colorado State University Extension. To find out more about Extension and the 4-H program visit http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu or call 719-852-7381. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.