April 5, 1999 | By: Haven Miller

If the 4-H youth of eastern Kentucky provide a glimpse of our state's future, parents and community leaders can rest easy. All around the eastern counties young people from elementary age on up are demonstrating the real meaning of responsibility, citizenship, and character.

Here are just a few examples:

- in Boyd County about 70 teens from four school districts have formed community service teams that are visiting nursing homes, helping with the community kitchen, raising money for charities, and tutoring other students

- in Johnson County, 4-Hers from seven elementary schools recently celebrated the grand finale of their involvement in "Character Counts," a program that stresses the values of trustworthiness, respect, caring, citizenship, responsibility, and fairness

- in Greenup County, 4th and 5th graders recently organized classmates to help collect a van load of canned food for the local Helping Hands community assistance agency

"Projects like this food drive are a wonderful idea," said Scott Coburn, president of Greenup's Helping Hands. "It's particularly good for kids at this age to learn it's important not just to live for yourself, but to get outside yourself and serve the needs of others."

"It makes me feel good because I know I'm helping someone," said 4-Her Beth Marshall, a 5thgrader at McDowell Elementary.

According to Greenup County Extension 4-H Agent, Kathy Junker, leadership and citizenship development is a key component of UK's Cooperative Extension youth mission. She said adults did very little of the planning for the food collection project.

"We left most of the decisions up to the young people," said Junker. "The 4-Hers chose the project, arranged for the school assembly to get the food drive going, and made the necessary contacts to make it happen."

In Johnson County, 4-Hers are using sketches, songs, and classroom interaction to help build the six values, or "pillars," of character. The Character Counts program is a cooperative effort.

"Our teachers serving as 4-H volunteers and other educators have supported us in our character development programs," said Johnson County 4-H Agent Glenda Penix. "The youth have been very hands-on with their involvement, and with 1200 excited youngsters coming together in one place for our grand finale, you can see that they're building memories that will last a lifetime."

Boyd County 4-Her Amy Aschenauer, a high school sophomore, believes there is joy in serving her community, and being a role model for younger students.

"I love doing projects for the community, it makes me feel awesome," Aschenauer said. "I also get a great feeling knowing that younger kids are looking up to me and may want to follow in my footsteps."

"You know you're not going to get paid for it, but you don't care because it feels good to do something out of the goodness of your heart," said Kyle Lueken, Boyd County 4-Her and high school senior.

Roxanne Gross, Boyd County 4-H Agent, believes local service projects are helping change the image of young people, not just in one county or area, but across the state.

"Not all teens are doing drugs and in trouble," said Gross. "Many of them are involved with their community, and we get great feedback from local parents and community leaders."

Kentucky's statewide 4-H program, which is part of UK's Cooperative Extension Service, involves more than a quarter of a million young people. A variety of leadership, citizenship, and character-building programs are conducted in each of the state's 120 counties.

"We're helping prepare these youth to be responsible adults and community leaders for the 21stcentury," said Bill Umscheid, UK Assistant Extension Director for 4-H. "It's an investment in Kentucky's future that we believe is well worth it."

Contact: 

Writer: Haven Miller
(606) 257-3784