December 5, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

High School student Melissa Oldham likes helping elementary students learn about 4-H.

Melissa, a 10th grader in Muhlenberg County, is a member of the 4-H-sponsored TRY (Teens Reaching Youth) program.

"The kids look up to you, you are like a big brother or sister," she said.

High School students in the TRY program are leaders of some of the 50 elementary 4-H clubs in the county, said Tommy Harrison, 4- H/youth development Extension agent. The TRY program has been part of 4-H activities in the county since 1990.

"It's an organized way to develop teen leaders and to let them know of ways to work with younger kids," he said. "They gain communication skills, develop leadership roles and have a place to volunteer."

Today, volunteering is playing a bigger part in teens' lives as they look to college applications, and in Muhlenberg County volunteer hours are required to graduate.

It also provides the younger students with role models, Harrison said.

Maryanna Pendley, a junior, said when she was in elementary school teens weren't a part of the clubs and she's glad that's changed.

Last week, TRY participants met before school to learn to help youths prepare 4-H demonstration projects. They also signed on to help with other projects such as the 4-H Horse Club's Winterfest and to assist in lessons such as cooking, Christmas crafts and scrapbook making.

The teens are responsible for the club meetings where they work with the youth to set up their club, plan activities and any other activity a leader may be called to perform.

In the sixth-grade club where Maryanna is the leader, the most recent meeting dealt with poinsettia sales. Maryanna said the club uses Roberts Rules of Order during its business meeting, and as a member of a parliamentary team at her high school it also helps her remember proper procedure. Once the business meeting is over, any remaining time can be used to play games.

Harrison said besides having good teen leaders, a good working relationship with the school district is important.

In Muhlenberg County, Harrison said he is lucky to have that relationship which allows the teens to do the work needed.

Maryanna Pendley and Melissa Oldham believe in the program enough to encourage other students to join. Melissa spoke to Future Business Leaders of America chapters at her high school and Maryanna spoke to the CO-ED-Y group at her school to recruit more members in the TRY program.

"At first I was really nervous," Melissa said. "But it was OK because they listened and respected me."

The two students hope their talks paid off. Several teens have signed up to come to a future meeting of TRY.

4-H program assistant Judy McGehee said the younger students really respond to the teens. The teens' involvement will encourage other children to continue to be active as they get older, she said.

"Teens have more influence than adults," McGehee said. "The kids really seem to connect with the teens."

Lindsey Cobb, a senior, is in her first year with TRY. Lindsey said she became interested after hearing others talk about it over the past few years.

"I wasn't involved in 4-H before, but I'm getting older and I'm trying to be more involved and do more volunteering," she said. "And it's turning out to be a fun program."


Tommy Harrison, (270) 338-3124