When you are looking to get your child involved in something – Jose and Michelle Chavez of Moline, IL think 4-H is one of the best programs around. “I know a lot of people are concerned with getting their kids in sports so they develop physically.” said Michelle, “I hope they think it’s just as important to develop their character and their minds. If so – they should look into 4-H because it’s an amazing place for that.” she said. The Chavez have watched their 14 year old daughter Maya excel in building her leadership skills in 4-H.
Maya first got involved in the Teens as Teachers program “That’s where 4-H staff train us on lessons and then we present them to elementary kids at after-school programs.” explained Maya. “I picked rainforest ecology and it was so much fun to learn about the environment! I got to make the lessons fun for the kids and add my own personal touches.” she said “The kids taught me so much too.” Maya said she learned how to have fun as a teacher. “It was fun to see that they were interested and they asked some pretty neat questions.” She appreciated the support of the adult mentor who was also in the classroom and could assist when needed. Diane Baker, 4-H Youth Development Educator for University of Illinois Extension explains, “The goal is that the teens learn what we give them and take the lead on the program. We adult volunteers are there to provide encouragement and support if they run into a situation or question they are not familiar with.” said Baker who is impressed with Maya and how much she’s grown as a leader.
Maya got involved in other 4-H leadership programs. The 4-H Teen Hunger Ambassadors is one project Maya has really embraced. “Each month we prepare a meal for those in our community who are in need.” she said. One of the projects she is most proud of was a fundraiser she planned to support the Teen Hunger Ambassadors. She arranged for the Teen Hunger Ambassadors to be the charity of the month at Comedy Sports last year. “Every Friday for one month we got to tell the audience before a Comedy Sports show about our cause and then we collected donations from anyone who wanted to help.” said Maya. They were able to raise $430 through donations there. She was also involved in the food packaging event that was part of the 4-H Feeding and Growing our Community which packaged 50,000 meals for the RiverBend Food Pantry. “I know I’m making a difference in 4-H.” she said. Because of her strong belief in the program, Maya joined Speaking for Illinois 4-H. “We attended a training here in the Quad Cities on how to speak to legislators about 4-H.” she explained. “It was such an honor for me to get to go to Springfield and go inside the capital and talk with legislators and let them know why 4-H is important.” said Maya. “I got to meet and shake hands with Lisa Madigan, Jesse White, Rep Mike Jacobs, and the Governor” She also enjoyed meeting other teens from across the state.
When asked why other teens should get involved in 4-H, Maya said –“It’s so fun!” and encouraged others by saying “Sometimes kids don’t want to get involved with something if their friends aren’t doing it, but they are missing out.” There are many opportunities to get involved in 4-H. It’s open to boys and girls ages 8 to 18. There are special interest clubs like shooting sports – archery and rifles; cooking clubs, teen leadership groups, community clubs, camps and more! 4-H is a great opportunity for adults who want to help youth and teens. “We have great volunteer training and leadership opportunities for adults who want to start clubs at their school, church or neighborhood.” said Diane Baker. Find out more by calling (309) 756-9978 or look on the website web.extension.illinois.edu/hmrs/4hpyd. 4-H is organized by University of Illinois Extension, 321 West 2nd Ave., Milan, IL.
Pictured Maya Chavez