COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The heart of 4-H is loyalty. Literally.
In the second line of the 4-H Pledge, members vow to pledge “My Heart to greater loyalty.” And as Valentine’s Day approaches, Danielle Coleman, president of Collegiate 4-H at The Ohio State University, reflected on what that means to her.
“I joined in third grade, when someone from 4-H came to our school and talked about it,” Coleman said. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. My mom was in 4-H when she was growing up, and so were a bunch of other family members, so I got involved and was a member for 10 years.”
Coleman, a senior majoring in animal science in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), grew up near Tiffin in rural Seneca County. Although her uncles are in agriculture, her immediate family isn’t.
“I wanted to take a cow project, but my parents wouldn’t let me because we didn’t have a farm. So, I settled on rabbits and really developed a love for them. I showed rabbits all 10 years I was in 4-H.”
Coleman also attended 4-H camp, became a camp counselor, and participated in junior fair board and other leadership activities.
“I’ve always loved 4-H and the sense of community that it creates,” Coleman said. “You get to know a bunch of people who have similar interests. Coming down here to Ohio State, I knew I wanted to stay involved somehow.”
Ohio 4-H is the youth development program of Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of CFAES. In 2014, more than 216,000 young Ohioans participated in traditional 4-H clubs, camps and school enrichment programs, and in other Extension youth groups and educational activities.
At the collegiate level, 4-H focuses on service and outreach, said Coleman.
Ohio State’s group sponsors “Carving New Ideas,” a team-building camp for younger 4-H leaders, and hosts “Plowboy Prom,” a square dance after the annual Ohio 4-H leadership conference in Columbus each year. The collegiate members, numbering about three dozen, have also been involved in Habitat for Humanity, 4-H counselor training, and the university’s BuckeyeThon, a dance marathon that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Coleman says the values that 4-H promotes, starting with its motto “To make the best better,” inspires loyalty that often lasts far beyond the final day of 4-H camp.
“Four-H offers so many opportunities with projects to get involved in. It’s a lot of fun. You develop leadership skills, life skills, responsibility, and it instills good values. And it’s a great way to meet new people -- you create some lifelong friends.”
For more about Ohio 4-H, see ohio4h.org.