OKEECHOBEE — As the time for a new school year to begin nears, parents and children start thinking not only about the classes they will sign up for but also about extra-curricular activities and clubs that may be available in their area, and Okeechobee County is fortunate to have an abundance of 4-H clubs for local children from which to choose.
The 4-H year runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, and beginning Aug. 20, you can sign up online for the 2019-2020 school year. (If you sign up prior to Aug. 20, you will be enrolling in the 2018-2019 school year and will have to sign up again for the 2019-2020 year.) There is a statewide fee of $20 for all youth age 8 and up. Cloverbuds, who are ages 5-7, do not have to pay the fee, and students joining an in-school club are also not required to pay the fee. When you go to the website, florida.4honline.com, you will create a profile. If you do not have access to a computer, you can go to the County Extension office at 458 U.S. 98 North, and do a paper enrollment form, and they will set it up online for you. The fee covers insurance and various other things on the state and county level.
Last year, Okeechobee had 23 clubs. The main focus of all the clubs is positive youth development. Each club may use a different vehicle or project to achieve that goal, said Carrie Muldoon 4-H program assistant director. “We ask that all of our clubs and club members participate in at least one community service event per year. We want to get them out into the community. Our goal is to have them start making a difference when they are young.”
Even the clubs that are considered livestock clubs, do not require members to show an animal in order to be a member. They can learn from the experience. You can join a club just to see if you would like to show an animal, she said. The younger children, called Cloverbuds, just participate. They do not compete. They cannot enroll in any of the horse clubs or the shooting club. They mainly stick to the clubs with the smaller animals, she explained.
The clubs meet a minimum of once a month, but some meet more often.
A 4-H club is a group of five or more youth lead by at least one adult, and the clubs vary based on the interests of those participating in the club. Some clubs focus on different animals such as horses or chickens or cows. Some clubs learn about sewing or cooking or gardening. If you do not see a club that interests you, maybe you and your friends can form a new club.
The following is a list of the active clubs you can join beginning August 20:
• Bacon Bunch — Swine, beef and community service;
• Bacon, Steak and Eggs — Beef, swine, poultry and community service (There is a waiting list for new members);
• Barnyard Buddies — Small animals, leisure arts and community service;
• Big Lake Rooters — Swine, goat, lamb and community service;
• Big “O” — Swine, beef and community service;
It is possible more clubs may be added later, so keep checking back.
4-H pledge states: “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
If you ask anyone who has been a part of 4-H, they will almost always tell you, it was a good experience.