Preparing Youth for Life

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Life is full of challenges. Some are easier than others, and how we face them may determine how well we succeed in life. As parents, there is a struggle to protect your child as well as prepare them to be successful and able to take care of themselves no matter what comes their way. It can be a difficult balancing act.

In 4-H, we want to help with that balancing act. For years, I have been preaching 4-H is about more than cows and cooking. It is a holistic approach to allow youth to build the skills they need to become successful adults. It is true that being part of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the Land-Grant University System, we have research-based programming that enhances their hands-on learning experience. We allow youth to have experiences and with the help of their parents, our caring volunteers, and staff, youth learn how to face challenges, identify their talents, and figure out that hard work allows them to succeed. We give them the opportunities to learn about life, success and failure, and how to handle challenges along the way.

For example, we just finished our Embryology Program in second and third grade classrooms (as well as virtually). Folks frequently tell me how much they enjoy the program that taught them how to hatch chicks in a classroom. It was a memory they remember for a lifetime. Yes, it’s neat to see the chicks hatch from eggs and learn how that works, but the real lesson in this program is life cycles. Not every egg is going to hatch; sometimes they start and can’t make it out. Other times, none of the eggs hatch. There is not a crystal ball to determine why this happens. It does allow youth to start conceptualizing the miracle of birth and the reality of death. These are hard lessons to teach, but through this program, they get a better understanding of life and how precious it is. Some teachers use butterflies, ants, mealworms, or other creatures to demonstrate the process of life cycles, and I am amazed how these creatures and experiences teach so much to our youth.

Embryology is just one example of life learning that happens in 4-H. Youth learn how to win with grace and lose with dignity, make choices on what is of interest to them (do they want to be leaders, learn about science or agriculture, be a change agent in their community), and if they will pursue higher education in this interest or try something new and different in their future. One thing is for sure, the sky is the limit for youth in 4-H, because they are prepared to try. I always remind 4-H members that life may be about how you handle plan B when a challenge occurs, but there are 26 letters in the alphabet, so don’t limit yourself to plan B.

For more information about 4-H programs, contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent, with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.