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Agriculture Press Release

October 22, 2001

Department partners with Florida 4-H to recruit adult volunteers for local programs

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is helping Florida 4-H recruit adult volunteers to assist local club leaders with youth-oriented programs.

4-H is a "learn-by-doing" educational program for youth ages 5-18 that promotes positive values, social responsibility and lifelong learning. Adult volunteers are the foundation of 4-H, which engages youth in all aspects of learning and development as a whole person as symbolized by the 4-H emblem denoting head, heart, hands and health.

Florida 4-H is sponsored by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, Boards of County Commissioners, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Currently, more than 250,000 youth participate in Florida 4-H, mostly through school enrichment programs conducted by teachers working with local 4-H agents who provide units of instruction for teacher use. But, due to a lack of qualified adult volunteers available to assist with 4-H activities outside the classroom, only about 18,000 Florida students benefit from club activities outside these school enrichment programs.

"Young people can get only so much from textbooks," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said. "They need to explore new things and develop Ďreal lifeí skills in order to gain self-esteem and become happy and productive citizens. But, even though they are eager to learn, todayís youths all too often donít have the opportunity to benefit from the diverse experiences of adults. Thatís why we need to recruit adult volunteers to provide them with guidance and advice that comes only with experience."

Florida 4-H conducts a variety of youth-oriented programs in areas such as: bicycle safety; model rocket and airplane flying; nutrition, consumer and agriculture skills; camping; financial management; leadership; citizenship; forestry; animal and plant science; and public speaking.

4-H has evolved since its inception in the early 1900s. While the principles have remained constant, the activities and projects have kept pace with the times to appeal to new generations of youth. 4-H provides programs in cities and suburbs as well as in rural and farming areas. It encompasses a wide range of projects to include the culturally diverse interests of youth all across Florida. Professional staff work with youth, adult volunteers and 4-H advisory committees to develop programs based on the specific needs of each Florida county.

The goal of the partnership between Florida 4-H and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is to increase by at least 15 percent the number of adult volunteers, resulting in an additional 165 Florida 4-H clubs statewide.

The recruitment campaign, which features the slogan "Floridaís Future Begins With YOUth: Share the Experience," includes several components designed and developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, including a 16-page booklet, two television public service announcements, a feature video, a web site, and a prospecting guide for recruiters.

The Florida Cooperative Extension Service is providing the personnel resources to implement the recruitment program that will screen, train, evaluate and assist volunteers. A full-time program specialist has been appointed to support the statewide recruitment effort.

"Volunteering to work with young people is one of the most rewarding things that anyone can do," said Damon Miller, University of Florida Assistant Dean and State 4-H Leader. "I invite you to partner alongside us and become a 4-H volunteer. You can never see the look of gratitude on a young personís face or feel the moment of triumph in a challenge overcome, if you donít volunteer. You will never know the difference you can make if you donít try."

Anyone wishing to volunteer or inquire about Florida 4-H may access the website at www.florida4h.com or call 1-866-4H-CLUBS (1-866-442-5827).

"There is a special sense of accomplishment in helping a new generation of young people grow into upstanding adults," Bronson said. "Itís rewarding to see a young mind develop, spurred on by your involvement and guidance, and realize that someone else really appreciates what you have to offer. We have a shortage of volunteers today, and I encourage everyone to consider helping."

4-H is for all youths ages 5-18 regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin or physical disability.

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