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Telling my 4-H Story

Knowing my involvement and passion for 4-H, Bryan Times Publisher Chris Cullis asked me to write a column with my story. It appears on the opinion page of today's paper. But for my blog friends, here's a free read:

I was involved in everything when I was in school — volleyball, basketball, softball, band, Girl Scouts, student council, National Honor Society, yearbook — the list could go on an on.

All of those activities, sports and clubs had an impact on my life. For each I am grateful, as I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences.

However, I’ve come to realize there is one activity, one organization, which touched my life in every way possible: 4-H.

I was technically a member for only 11 years, but I followed my older brother and sister to meetings and fairs from the time I was a toddler. We all started out by showing our dad’s angora goats at the fair, but it bloomed into rabbits, sheep, hogs, hamsters, woodworking, cooking, bicycles and more.

Yes, we were lucky we had livestock and a barn in the country. I know not everyone has that luxury.

And while I learned a lot about agriculture with my livestock projects, I know that 4-H can make a difference without any animals involved.

Camp is a prime example. One particular summer, I went to 4-H Camp Palmer as a camper, and both of my siblings were camp counselors that year.

I can still sing all the words to “Mmm...at went the little green frog one day,” and I remember learning how to navigate with a compass and paddle a canoe.

Our club also offered a lot of fun activities. I still have pictures from the time we rode our Snow White float in the summer parades, went swimming in a member’s pond, and went roller skating each spring in Auburn.

And I can’t write about 4-H without telling you about my writing projects. Yep, 4-H offered two writing projects at one time, and I took them both. They sparked my obvious passion for writing, and I was elected the news reporter of the Heartland 4-Hers for a few years.

I had an awesome moment a few weeks ago, what I believe Oprah would call a “full circle moment.” At the Friends of 4-H banquet — which I was covering as a Bryan Times reporter — a set of scrapbooks was laid out for display. Much to my surprise I found my maiden name, Tami Herman, on the first page I flipped to. It was on several club meeting reports that were cut out from The Bryan Times back in my news reporter days.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, but at that moment I was reminded that my first real job training came straight from 4-H. Because of the experience and exploration opportunities I had from 4-H at such a young age, I found my life’s work in elementary school. How many adults can say that? 

My 4-H story doesn’t end there. In high school I joined the Junior Fair Board and realized the real, physical labor that is needed for the Williams County Fair to be a success each year. I learned how to really work.

And so many friendships were made from that board, ones with students from other towns that I couldn’t have made otherwise.

Let’s not forget the most important friendship I made as Junior Fair Board member — the one with my now-husband, Kyle. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day I met that handsome boy from Edon in the wash racks of the hog barn.

Now, I don’t condone 4-H as a dating service. Trust me, I never intended to find a spouse when I joined up as a Cloverbud.

But I can’t deny how great it felt when we had wedding pictures taken in front of the very same hog barn, right before our reception in the Gillette Building a few doors down.

My life is still tied to 4-H today. The best part of my job is covering the fair each year, and Kyle and I agree we will be signing up our future children for 4-H someday.

I just hope that when our children are old enough, 4-H is still here. And if it is still here, I hope it’s the same 4-H we remember, with all the same opportunities and experiences that were important to shaping our lives.

It wrenched my heart to see state and county budget cuts to the Ohio State University Extension last year. Though the Williams County 4-H program remains intact following those cuts, it is by no means safe. And cuts to other parts of the office have had adverse effects on our 4-H program and other programs in our community.

As we start to climb out of the Great Recession, I hope our community, our leaders, and our government officials will recognize the important role 4-H plays in the pivotal youth years.
I know 4-H is an investment in our future, one that will produce boundless returns.
My 4-H story is unique, but not uncommon. I know many adults today who will tell you what a positive impact 4-H made on their lives.

Hopefully, more of them will tell their 4-H stories, so the program can continue to receive the funding and recognition it deserves.

Tami Brigle is a reporter at The Bryan Times and may be reached at 419-636-1111 or tami@bryantimes.com

Blog note: Not included in this column are my experiences with Collegiate 4-H at Bowling Green State University or my year representing the Junior Fair as queen. I just didn't have room for everything. :)

Comments

  1. Don't forget, Sis, I found my Bride at 4-H camp.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So true! I forgot. That was the year before I went to camp.

    ReplyDelete

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