October 26, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

For the first time, seventh- and eighth-grade 4-Hers have something just for their age group – Pre-Teen Conference. Organizers said there has been a gap between elementary 4-H activity and high school 4-H activity for many years.

“Anyone who is familiar with 4-H numbers knows that we have a huge number of fourth- and fifth-graders and then from sixth grade on, it just plummets,” said Mark Mains, University of Kentucky Extension associate for 4-H youth development, specializing in teen programs. “Part of the reason is that we don’t have a lot of programs that hold their interest as they change from the younger age group to the older age group. This program is our first step at providing programming specifically for seventh- and eighth-graders.”

As a pilot program, the first Pre-Teen Conference was held at the Kentucky Leadership Center in Jabez with about 150 youths participating. The theme of the two-day event was “TAG – You’re It.” 

“The idea was to encourage leadership and communication,” Mains said of the theme. “What we want is for a kid to come to a program and extract new ideas and knowledge and take that and tag someone else in their community.”

The conference consisted of classes focused on leadership, communications and crafts. The attendees also participated in large, organized group activities. 

The delegates to the Pre-Teen Conference also rallied together throughout the year leading up to the conference for the “A Dime Makes a Difference” campaign. Mains said the effort, devoted to raising money to purchase phone cards for Kentucky soldiers in Iraq to call home, brought in more than $300. In the spirit of friendly competition, each district tried to raise the most money. The winners were from District 6. 

Mains said the inaugural event went off without a hitch and organizers are excited to do it again.

“We filled the leadership center,” he said. “This is a pilot year and had a perfect number of delegates to have the first experience so we can iron out any wrinkles and be able to handle any problems. As we grow in numbers we’ll be able to offer a better system every time.”

Mains said organizers have discussed adding sixth graders into the mix. He thinks the conference will be successful in bridging the gap in 4-H participation.

“It gives them something to look forward to at each level of their 4-H experience,” Mains said. “The fourth- and fifth-graders can look forward to the Pre-Teen Conference and the pre-teens can look forward to Teen Conference. So, it continues to build and keep them involved to kind of bridge that gap from sixth grade to ninth grade.”



Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Mark Mains 859-257-5961