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Jefferson County 4-H program seeks growth

JOIN THE 4-H FUN — Angie Allison, left, Extension educator, 4-H youth development, and Leslie Aftanas, 4-H/agriculture and natural resource, program assistant, are hoping to raise awareness and enrollment in the Jefferson County 4-H program that offers a variety of experiences and projects for urban and rural youth. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — There are about 500 youth in Jefferson County involved to some degree in 4-H, but representatives of the program say there’s plenty of room for plenty more.

Two leaders newer to the local program are hoping to raise awareness about 4-H opportunities and raise participation in the process.

4-H isn’t exclusively about animals, farms and an annual fair, according to Angie Allison, who is finishing her first year as 4-H youth development educator, and Leslie Aftanas, 4-H/agriculture and natural resource program assistant.

“It’s for everybody — boys and girls, people who are rural and people who are urban,” Allison said.

“4-H is a youth development program here in Jefferson County — and all across the nation — and sponsored under the guise of OSU Extension,” Allison explained. “It is a year-round program. It’s not just all about the fair and all about animal science. Certainly that’s where our roots are, that’s where 4-H started, but 4-H includes so much more than that,” she said.

“There are projects that the youth can be involved in that include everything from sewing and photography to leadership and young engineers in solar energy, so it encompasses a lot of those STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) projects that school districts are so intent on conveying to the youth today, but there also are outside opportunities. We have an Iron Chef competition, and there are so many camping opportunities for the youth,” Allison said.

“We’re trying to get in the school districts more and let the kids know there are STEM projects so there are so many different things that the youth can participate in,” Allison said, adding that there are several different kinds of science camps youth can participate in through Science Saturdays.

4-H teaches leadership, citizenship and life skills as its members work in partnership with caring adults. Through a variety of projects — from food and forestry to rockets and rabbits — 4-H gives children and teens opportunities to learn life skills, to practice them and become confident in their ability to use them in the future. It broads their horizon and their friendship base as well.

“I think kids aren’t necessarily aware of this,” Aftanas added, noting the county program has 500 youth involved and 100 adult volunteers.

“But we want more,” said Aftanas, who oversees the Cloverbuds program.

“Cloverbuds are also in the 4-H Club, just not old enough to take a project. We have a Cloverbud book that Cloverbud advisers in each club do with them to get trained, teach them how to do their book,” Aftanas said.

“It spurs their interest when they’re young, and is open to ages 5-8 for Cloverbuds,” she said, noting there are about 70 Cloverbuds in the county.

4-H is for youth who are 9 or in third grade to age 18. Jefferson County has approximately 30 clubs, some small, some large. Beyond members’ individual projects, the clubs as a group do community service projects annually.

“You have to have at least five members from three families to officially be called a club,” Allison explained.

While the club meeting schedules got under way this month, open enrollment continues with applicants accepted through April 15 but getting on board the earlier the better is encouraged, the two said.

“It’s not that we ever turn anyone away, but if they enroll after April 15, it’s kind of hard to get them into a standard project that they could have time to complete,” Allison said. “They can still be part of a club, but they may not take a project their first year, they just may do some of the group activities.”

New members complete an application and pay a $20 annual fee to participate.

Among activities on the 2020 calendar, aside from the Jefferson County 4-H overnighter at the Millsop Community Center that finished this morning, is the Valentines 4-H Dance and Update from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 15.

Parent, adviser and youth sessions will run concurrently, and a project/camp/contest day fair will run all evening to entice youth to new projects and activities. Cloverbud camp will be available. To pre-register, call Tracy at (740) 264-2212.

The Iron Chef Clinic will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 7 at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School. The event allows members to show off their culinary skills. Taken from the TV show of the same name, the Iron Chefs prepare dishes using a common main ingredient to see who can come up with the best product. This year’s menu item is “Fresh Tomatoes — Ohio’s Fruit.”

Dishes will be judged in four categories: Soup, appetizer, main dish or dessert. Clubs competing will prepare a dish ahead of time and bring a recipe to serve six judges. Judged areas include creativity, presentation and taste.

Anyone can attend to check out the cuisine, and after judging is complete, tasting will be permitted. “Tasters” will be charged $5 and will receive a hand stamp for unlimited taste tests until all items are gone. Proceeds will benefit the 4-H Committee to assist next year’s event planning.

The registration deadline is Feb. 21.

The Ohio 4-H Conference will be held March 14 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, offering a full day of educational seminars, a luncheon, silent auction, vendors and a time to get to know others in 4-H throughout the state.

4-H was founded in 1902 in Springfield, Ohio, by A.B. Graham as the Boys and Girls Agricultural Club. Thirty youth participated in that first 4-H out-of-school program. Today, 4-H is the largest youth development program in Ohio.

Allison and Aftanas come from a 4-H background.

Allison grew up on a hog and cattle farm and was active in 4-H. Before taking the 4-H position made vacant by the retirement of Janine Yeske, Allison was a schoolteacher for 11 years.

“Kind of the fun part for me is that all the youth who are involved in this and doing this are taking on these activities not because they have to, but because they are excited to learn, and it gives them an opportunity outside the classroom,” Allison said. “It’s more hands-on activities. It’s more relationship building outside of a standard school setting and for that, that’s fun for me. You see them so excited to learn,” she added.

The two explained that youth can be in a club that is predominantly a horse club but they can still take sewing. “It’s very based on what the youth’s interests are,” Allison said.

Aftanas also was active in 4-H in her youth and from it gained the ability to be unafraid to speak in front of people.

“I got that from 4-H, because we had to do our demonstrations in front of our club, show animals in front of judges you had to be in front of a crowd of people all the time. That’s what I got out of it and meeting people. I’m still friends with all those people. It’s like we’re a big family. A lot of our advisers were in 4-H, too.”

Aftanas said the 4-H clubs are all over Jefferson County, and a list of them and their advisers is a mere phone call away.

The OSU Extension, Jefferson County office is located in suite 512, 500 Market St., Steubenville. The phone number is (740) 264-2212. For information on joining, call or e-mail allison.325@osu.edu. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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