This past summer, I enjoyed my internship with Litchfield County 4-H so much that I found myself quite sad at times that I had never done 4-H as a child. I had friends who were a part of it, but I never fully understood what it was, and never joined. From what I have observed this summer, it would have been an incredibly fun experience that also teaches valuable life skills, whereas most of the activities I did as a child were either fun or educational, rarely both.
One of the main reasons I regret not knowing about 4-H as a child is that it’s not just one club. I learned about so many unique groups within the organization that each had their own focus and goals. I also heard from kids about new clubs they had been part of creating, and their pride in it was clear. With all those clubs, it seems that there is something to interest everyone. I find that particularly important because it took me so long to figure out what I wanted to major in at college and what I wanted to do with my life because I had never been exposed to so many of the options that were then presented to me at college. I am now an environmental sciences major with a minor in wildlife conservation, but never had any classes or extracurriculars even remotely related to either before I entered college. Many of my friends who majored in history or chemistry had prior experience in those fields, but I started taking classes in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources with no prior coursework or experience. I think if someone is interested in these fields of agriculture or sustainability, doing 4-H puts them ahead and gives them an advantage over their peers even many years down the line.
Even if a club in 4-H isn’t something a kid wants to do for the rest of their life, I still noticed that 4-H teaches real skills that I wish I had experienced. In particular, I liked the emphasis on giving kids leadership experience. I was an extremely shy child to the point of timidness, and I am still quiet. I have difficulty speaking up, especially in larger settings or with newer people, no matter how important what I have to say is. Although I’m sure I would have complained as a kid about the encouragement towards public speaking, that is something I certainly needed improvement at the time, and am still not good at simply because I haven’t had enough experience in it. The projects, public speaking, and other events that I saw may be just one more assignment to the kids completing them, but are important practice in lifelong skills.
Finally, I wished I had done 4-H because it seems so fun. Even only getting to experience part of what the kids do, I had a great time! At the fair, everywhere I looked, there were kids running, laughing, and teaching each other new things. I am so grateful for my internship experience, and wish I had joined 4-H as a child.
Danielle was a summer 2021 intern with UConn Extension, working in our Litchfield County 4-H office. Learn more about our internships at s.uconn.edu/interns.
By Danielle Katz, UConn Extension Intern, Summer 2021