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Kids step up for 4-H program

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By Chris Sardelli

Holding her father Kevin’s hand, Kaitlyn Hudson hopped onto the seat of a chair, leaned close to the microphone and told Lancaster County Council what the county’s 4-H program means to her.

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Decked out in a sky blue 4-H 

T-shirt and small, round eyeglasses, the 5-year-old Heath Springs native had several things to say at council’s Monday, May 20, meeting.

“It’s my first year being in it and I learned a lot and now I’m doing the garden project,” Kaitlyn said, as she explained her recent first and fourth place wins in 4-H competitions.

“I learned you have to give plants soil, water and sunlight,” she said, as her father whispered in her ear.

“Oh, and fertilizer too,” she said. “You’ve got to wait them out. I’m fixin’ to start the goat project now.”

After a brief pause, and a few more whispers from her father, Kaitlyn thanked council and jumped back to the ground.

She was one of several young people who attended the meeting to express their love of the program, which is run through the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service and teaches local youth about animals, agriculture and the environment through hands-on experience.

A group of students, parents and other 4-H supporters filled council chambers Monday hoping to urge council not to cut the program’s funding for the next fiscal year.

Their comments come two weeks after council discussed the possibility of cutting about $35,000 in funding for the Clemson Extension, which helps provide a 4-H agent for the county. This would reduce the Clemson line item to just $8,000. Brian Beer, extension service agent for Lancaster County, has previously said the cut would be drastic, making it impossible to continue many of its programs here.

Learn what they love

Next up to the microphone was Tucker Adams, a teenager from Heath Springs, who has dedicated years to various projects with the 4-H.

“I’ve been doing the pullet project for a few years and I’m getting ready to do the goat project, which I’ve done before and had a lot of fun with,” Adams said. “I’ve done the garden project too which is a lot of fun because you eat what you grow.”

Lancaster teen Marissa Haskell battled her discomfort with speaking to crowds so she could let council know to keep the 4-H running in the county. 

“I’m very shy and I don’t like talking in front of a lot of people, but this is important,” Haskell said.

She said the program is important to both her and her brother.

“We think it’s a great opportunity where we can come and learn about stuff we love. When we moved here we wanted chicks and we didn’t know how to take care of them and 4-H taught us,” she said.

For Karen Daley, the program has many long-lasting benefits in a rural county.

“A thriving 4-H program shows a healthy community and an investment in the future of the youth,” Daley said. “I would like to see it continue.”

But it was Lancaster High School junior Anna Scott, 17, who had the most to say on the subject. 

Scott has been involved with 4-H for six years and is a current member of the horse club, where she has seen her love of horses grow. 

“That’s where I get all my volunteer service hours is through 4-H,” Scott said. “I’ve competed at national events. As a Lancaster County student I think it’s pretty good.”

She told council she recently placed eighth in the nation at a quarter horse competition. 

“I couldn’t have made it to the national level without making it to state and I couldn’t have made it to the state level without the support 4-H gives,” she said. 

The 4-H program has impacted her so dramatically, Scott said she plans on heading to college to major in agriculture and one day become a Clemson Extension agent.

“Without 4-H at the local level I wouldn’t have had the experience of my lifetime,” she said. “I would really like you to continue funding it because it’s a really important part of my life.”

Council did not discuss the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year budget, or the proposal to cut local 4-H funding, during the meeting. Second reading of the budget will be held June 10. 

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416