Richland County currently has 141 certified 4-H volunteers that account for more than 33,000 hours of service at an estimated value of $699,600. Their leadership helps with the personal development of the county’s 1,977 4-H community club members and/or youth participants. This investment decreases the amount of kids that are at risk of getting into trouble, provides a base for workforce development and creates a positive resource to the community. One volunteer stated, “4-H is about teaching the skills that will help kids be successful adults. ” A former 4-H’er commented, “Without 4-H in my life I would not have the career opportunities I enjoy now. I want my kids to have the same experience to give them a head start in life. No other youth organization helps produce great kids like 4-H does.”
Safety education is an important part of the Richland County 4-H program. Teaching teen drivers to positively influence their attitudes and behaviors about drinking and driving, avoiding distractions, reducing speed, wearing seatbelts, and responsible driving behavior is emphasized in the 4-H CARTEENS program, the annual mock crash safety docu-drama and other safety events throughout the year. The mock crash safety docu-drama (held for 700 students from seven high schools in 2016) has reached more than 41,500 students since its inception in 1990. The 4-H CARTEENS monthly program helped 252 first-time juvenile traffic offenders refine their driving skills through hands-on learning experiences. With the estimate that each vehicular crash costs millions of dollars, preventing these crashes creates a significant economic savings.
Richland County Junior 4-H camp helps build critical life skills for both campers and teen counselors. 4-H camp related experiences helps build teamwork, communication and leadership, cultivating the job readiness skills employers look for while giving campers a chance to connect to nature. Skills learned by teen 4-H camp counselors were transformed into high quality work-based learning experiences by their leadership for residential and day camp-type experiences for 107 youth ages 5 – 15 years.