By Rhiannah Gallagher

As an ambassador, I have had the opportunity to travel across the province and have some once in a lifetime experiences. But a common misconception people have when I tell them I’m a 4-H Ontario ambassador is that I only go to agriculture events and that the 4-H program as a whole is only for farm kids. And let me tell you that is completely wrong. 4-H is an organization that allows youth to pursue their interests whether it be in science, leadership, cooking, agriculture, or anything in between. At the beginning of 4-H meetings, we say the 4-H pledge, pledging our heads, hearts, hands, and health. I believe that each of these represent an important aspect of 4-H and truly shows that it’s not just an agricultural organization, it’s that and so much more!

I pledge my Head to clearer thinking

You would typically think that youth develop their minds only inside the classroom. I believe that youth involved in 4-H develop both inside and outside of the classroom. 4-H gives youth opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), that helps prepare them for the world. Whether it be the 4-H Canada science fair, maybe completing a personal financial fitness club, a robotics club, or maybe youth are interested in engineering and take a woodworking club (i.e. structural engineering). There are so many opportunities to develop their head and knowledge of the world through 4-H.

My Heart to greater loyalty

This aspect is one of my favourites and holds a lot of meaning for me personally. I have seen a lot of heart growth throughout my career in 4-H. 4-H helps you develop a heart for your community, through volunteering opportunities. You develop and use critical thinking and public speaking skills that allow you to stand up for what you believe and have your voice heard throughout your community. There are also opportunities to develop leadership skills through events like Future Leaders in Action Camp, Leap into Leadership Camp, Provincial Leadership Camp, as well as leadership positions in local clubs and counties. Being a leader for your community can help you act as a role model and create change in your community and your world around you. There are so many different opportunities that help youth develop their heart and passion through 4-H.

My Hands to larger service

I think this aspect of 4-H is very well-known, and it is right there in our motto ‘Learn To Do By Doing’. 4-H is unique because it always gives you opportunities and tools to accomplish things by yourself. It gives youth hands on experience in so many things beyond just animals. There are camps like Discovery Days or Youth Adventure Camp that put kids right in the middle and lets them get their hands dirty. Youth have the chance to work with tools if they’re interested in building, supplies that help them craft something really interesting (whether that be fabric, a new medium, or even sometimes different camera styles for photography clubs), or ingredients in a cooking club that they have never worked with before. You get hands-on experience in running a meeting and all the aspect that are involved in hosting like thanking speakers and engaging your audience. I use a lot of those hands-on skills now in university and it’s really helpful when I’m running different club meetings, fundraisers or events at school. Those hands-on experiences you get throughout your 4-H career last you a lifetime.

A public speaking opportunity with 4-H

Health to better living

We, as a society put an emphasis, especially for youth, on health. Whether that be physical health or mental health. 4-H allows everyone an opportunity to develop their physical health through the many projects you can complete, like personal fitness, healthy eating, how to cook, or an outdoor education club. These clubs allow youth to learn about healthy habits in a fun, no stress environment. Mental health is very important, and we have seen through the COVID-19 pandemic how hard being isolated from our peers can be. 4-H gives youth the opportunity to make long-lasting friendships, work alongside peers, and work with participants that are older than them. It is an outlet that youth can have that takes them away from the stress of daily life and allows them to pursue their passion, because trust me there is a 4-H club for everyone!

As you can see 4-H encompasses so much more than just agriculture; it’s a place where youth get to discover who they are and follow their passions, no matter what they may be! If you’re interested in finding out more or becoming a 4-H participant, learn more here or register now!