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4-H, for Hawai‘i

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 05/02/2017 More stories >>

Dr. Goodwin jumps in to referee a game of Cow Wrestling.

Dr. Goodwin jumps in to referee a game of "Cow Wrestling."

“It’s not just livestock,” State 4-H coordinator Jeff Goodwin emphasizes, for perhaps the thousandth time during his career. 4-H includes a variety of activities to increase youths’ health, well-being, leadership skills, and community engagement, and it continues to add to its repertoire, incorporating STEM-focused activities such as rocketry. Rearing and showing cows, pigs, chickens, and goats is still an important part of the venerable organization. But even here, the focus is not just on the animals but also on the skills, from time-management to recordkeeping to simple patience and respect, that the kids who raise them learn.

New to his position—he just came to Hawai‘i last year from Colorado—Dr. Goodwin identifies the greatest challenge here as growing what’s still perceived as primarily a rural organization in urban Honolulu. He’s done it in the city of Denver, though, and he’s ready to do it again.

500-plus volunteers
support 4-H and the children it it, devoting more than 40,000 hours annually.

500-plus volunteers support 4-H and the children it it, devoting more than 40,000 hours annually.

He’s getting plenty of help, including the 500-plus volunteers who support the program and the children in it. Some fifty or sixty 4-H community clubs are active throughout the Islands, as well as around 100 military clubs, at least one on every base throughout the state and elsewhere in the Pacific. Upwards of 3,200 youth in the state ages 5 to 19 participate. And with only four dedicated faculty agents in the college, the work 4-H does would be literally impossible without these volunteers, who contribute more than 40,000 hours annually, at a value of almost $1 million, to the program.

Many of the volunteers begin because their own children are involved with the program but continue on after they graduate. Others join because of their own positive memories of 4-H as kids. “We have lots of multi-generation 4-H families,” Dr. Goodwin concurs. Older youth participants also volunteer to mentor the younger members.

All the volunteers are supervised by the agents and Dr. Goodwin, but there’s room for personal initiative, too: they lead activities that interest them. They go through orientation training and periodic supplemental training to gain new skills and knowledge, from fiscal issues to how to keep learning fun.

Not to mention Dr. Goodwin’s newest introduction to the Island clubs: shooting sports, such as drilling and marksmanship. One of the most popular activities on the Mainland, it should consider­ably boost youth engagement here. And not to worry, he reassures: the volunteers will get plenty of training before guiding that activity.

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