Record Keeping Helps 4-H Youth Build Life Skills

JUNEAU – 4-H has touched the lives of many thousands of people and shaped their lives by stimulating interest in their communities through service, teaching them new skills or influencing their career choices.

Many successful business owners, including farmers, can trace their beginnings in the business world to their 4-H experiences.

One of the unique things about the 4-H program, compared to other youth organizations, is that it is planned and run by young people themselves. This opportunity to elect leaders and plan programs with adult guidance helps develop leadership and decision-making skills that these young people will benefit from for the rest of their lives.

4-Hers keeps records detailing their projects and activities. Although record keeping is often not the most popular activity in the program, these books are a way to teach 4-Hers how to record what has been learned in projects and keep track of the finances involved. These skills stay with them throughout their lives, and 4-H alumni often credit their 4-H experiences and record keeping with their ability to cope with the record keeping that is part of their professional and personal lives. .

Record keeping is a part of everyone’s life, especially anyone who runs their own business, such as a farm. It’s not just a way to track income and expenses, and records aren’t kept just to satisfy the IRS.

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Keeping careful records helps keep family finances and business finances on track. Try borrowing money without having a good track record. It won’t work. Try applying for a job or scholarship without a written record of past accomplishments and goals.

Tracey Malterer, general manager of Sinissippi 4-H in the Hustisford area of ​​Dodge County, says that for many years there has been controversy over the requirement to keep records.

Some 4-H members, although very active, did not like to record all their activities on paper. There was also concern that some young people might not be interested in joining 4-H because of the requirement to record project activities and report them at the end of the 4-H year.

Records have long been a part of the 4-H program, but as technology evolves, so does record keeping.  Some 4-H clubs are forgoing traditional record keeping and doing personal interviews and using simpler reports.  This is a traditional record book from the early years when 4-H's were between 10 and 21 years old.

New options explored

Initially, the records were used by leaders to gauge 4-H member success in their individual projects and served as the basis for selecting winners for each county-level project.

Dodge County 4-H and volunteer leaders responded to the concerns and decided to provide youth with options on how to report on their projects.

This year, seven Sinissippi 4-H members chose to participate in a personal interview with Malterer. A member made a power point presentation on his project. A member reported on 4-H activities in notebook form.

Malterer said she likes the personal interview option.

“During these interviews, I was impressed that the young people did not talk about the ribbon they won at the fair or the animal they sold at the sale. They talked about what they learned through their projects and what they plan to do next year. That’s what 4-H is all about,” she said. “One young person actually brought financial sheets to show me how she recorded costs and benefits.”

Malterer says face-to-face interviews provide the life skills needed to interview for a job or a scholarship in a world where everyone just wants to text or communicate with technology.

Nikki Meagher, co-general leader of the Leipsic 4-H club.

Meagher says the 46 members of the Leipsic club discussed ideas for how members can report on their year’s activities. Together, the members decided to come up with alternative options for year-end reporting.

“Not everyone is good at writing stuff, but most of them are good at talking about their projects,” Meagher said. “Our members have decided to offer the possibility of making a traditional record book or participating in a face-to-face interview. Some of our members are in college and did their interview via Face Time. Others scheduled a time to meet with leaders to share what they did during the year. »

It points to another reason for the personal interview.

4-Hers are joining at a younger age now than when 4-H started more than 100 years ago, she said. In the early years of 4-H, young people joined the organization at the age of 10 and could become members until the age of 21. Now, kids are much younger when they get involved as Cloverbuds, and they can stay in 4-H until they’re 19. .

Meagher says only two members of their club chose to make the traditional record books.

“I found the interview process to be more personal,” she said. “Seeing a young boy’s face light up as he talked about showing his calf for the first time this year is something that would have been missed if he had written his experience down in a book.”

Meagher says the 4-H leaders who conducted the interview encouraged members to ask specific questions about what they liked, what they learned and what their goals are for the next year.

While 4-H members, at this point, still have to submit a traditional record book to the county in order to be considered for county awards, she said most members have said they are not not so much interested in getting a prize as they are. simply learn to set goals and move forward with their projects.

4-H clubs are organized locally with local project leaders available to help build skills in specialized areas. At the county level, older youth and adult leaders organize fundraising events and plan activities and training meetings to fill the gaps.

It is at these county leadership meetings that youth and adult leaders discuss what is working well for clubs and what could be changed. Record books continue to be a topic of discussion at Dodge County Leaders Association meetings. When leaders like Malterer, Meagher, and others share their insights on record-keeping changes for 4-Hers, they’re doing exactly what the 4-H motto says: “Make the Best Better.”

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