MGNV Volunteers in Our Community: 4-H in Virginia


By Gabriel Eberhardt

unnamedLast week we talked about the origins of 4-H. Now let’s focus on   4-H closer to home. In Virginia, approximately 20,000 adults and teens volunteer their time and energy annually to help more that 170,000 Virginia youth learn leadership, citizenship and life skills while discovering how to build on their own ability to make good decisions, manage resources wisely, work effectively with others and communicate successfully.

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Alexandria 4-H Agent Reggie Morris leading a group of junior 4-H members in the 4-H National Youth Science Day Experiment “Maps & Apps!” Photo: 4-H National Council

Many programs and services are offered through the Alexandria 4-H Youth Development Program at the Lee Center. Alexandria’s 4-H program participates in National Youth Science Day, National Food Day, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, After-School Enrichment program, In-School 4-H Enrichment and Special Interest Programming, and the highly popular 4-H camping program, which is one of the largest in the country.

In addition, the 4-H in Alexandria has partnered with such organizations as the Alexandria Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities Department, Afterschool Alliance, and the Arlington Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless to provide additional educational experience to its members.

At the helm of this multifaceted program is Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent and 4-H Youth Development Coordinator, Reggie Morris. Spend a few minutes talking with Reggie about 4-H programs and services, and you discover that his drive is eclipsed only by his inspiration.

“A sustainable 4-H program is driven by a committed and active volunteer base,” he noted in a recent interview. “The positive reach of 4-H Youth Development stretches around the globe, but this can only be achieved through the dedication and compassion of caring adults who serve as volunteer leaders.”

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4-H members Areli Ibarra-Ruiz and Caitlyn Morgan of the Bridges To Independence Leadership Academy 4-H Club assist market goers to create “seed bombs” at the 2014 USDA Farmer’s Market Kick-Off Event. Photo: Reggie Morris

4-H’s four age groups are clover buds for ages 5 to 8, juniors 9 to 12, intermediates 13 to 14 and seniors 14 to 18. Each group can participate in the 10 areas of the 4-H curriculum. These include educational experiences in project work, presentations, field trips, day and overnight camps, community service and leadership development.

Reggie is passionate about bringing    4-H Discover Clubs to Alexandria. In a Discover Club, community volunteers create a short, six-session program for youth who share a similar interest. The Discover Club takes the fundamental elements of 4-H programming — hands-on and inquiry-based learning — and condenses them into six weekly club meetings.

The 4-H Discovery Program was piloted in Utah, where there are 4-H Discover Clubs for geology, kitchen science, robotics, dogs, crocheting, consumer science, citizenship, theater arts, photography, crime and spy science, money mentoring, planetary science and paper crafts, to name only a few. The subject matter is as diverse as the volunteers who participate. Morris wants to offer this type of imaginative, educational programming in Alexandria.

“It is an opportunity for volunteers who want to share their interests to invite family, friends or community members to discover and learn,” Reggie said. “But most of all,” he added, “everyone involved should be having fun in the process.”

To find out more about the Alexandria 4-H Youth Development Program, visit Reggie Morris at the Lee Center located at 1108 Jefferson Street, contact him by phone at 703-746-5547 or send him an email at rbmorris@vt.edu. He would be more than happy to discuss the many ways the 4-H youth organization can work with you “to make the best better.”

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