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VIEWPOINT: Woodbury 4-H, making the best better

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“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”. Every month I feel the excitement as we all loudly recite the 4-H pledge at the beginning of our Woodbury 4-H club meeting.

When I tell people I am in 4-H, I often get asked “So do you raise animals?” “No! you don’t have to! There are so many other things you can do!”, and, I typically go on to describe the variety of diverse programs, activities and projects that our club has participated in. Due to its history and beginnings, 4-H is typically thought of as a livestock and agriculturally focused organization, but today after being in existence for more than 100 years, it focuses on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs. We have been in 4-H plays, learned about bees, participated in food demonstrations, learned sewing, and, built robots, rockets and machines, to name a few!

For me, it all started six years ago during a trip to the State Fair when my parents decided to take us to the ‘big green building’. It was my first real exposure to 4-H and I remember being so impressed with the hands-on robotics games and displays, the project boards describing science experiments, places around the world, aircraft and engine models, arts, woodshop crafts, clothing, food and more. Hours later when we stepped out of the 4-H building we were all pretty certain this was something we wanted to get involved with!  

I still remember my first 4-H club meeting! The clubs are run by a youth board with adult advisors. The youth officers on the board, elected by club members, get to sit at the front of the room and lead the meetings. I remember being so excited every time the president sounded the gavel and a motion was finalized. I was inspired to someday be a youth board member myself.

One of my favorite 4-H activities is working on projects for showing at the County Fair.  If you are in 6th-12th grade and your project is picked at County level you can attend the MN State Fair! I remember I couldn’t wait to be in 6th grade and was excited at the thought of staying overnight in the dorms at the State Fair ‘big green’ 4-H building.  I submitted projects in many categories like ‘Photography’, ‘Crafts and Fine Arts’, ‘Global Connections’, ‘Consumer Education’, ‘Food and Nutrition’ etc. After winning at County Fair, I chose my project in the ‘Self-Determined’ category to take to State. My entry was on a community service project I had completed. My best friend from Elementary School has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and is wheelchair bound. She has been looking forward to “Madison’s Place”, a fully inclusive Playground to be built in Woodbury. I initiated a fund-raising campaign and raised money for the playground. It would not have been possible without the help and support from my family, friends, 4-H club, and community. At the State Fair I presented my project to the judges and won a Purple Ribbon – the highest honor!

This year, in addition to my individual project on Soil Science, our Woodbury 4-H club team members also participated with other Washington county 4-H clubs in a Rube Goldberg Design Challenge at State and ended up winning the Purple ribbon. It isn’t just about winning, it’s the team camaraderie, creativity, problem-solving, and participation that taught me valuable lessons.

4-H has been a great learning experience for me and I have made so many friends and memories. Per the 4H motto, ‘Make the best better’, now as the Club’s Vice-president, I hope to motivate and inspire others to join. 4-H offers many learning opportunities to continue to grow and develop the head, heart, hands, and health of youth!

Manashree Padiyath is an eighth grader at Math And Science Academy.