Clinton County developing youth and communities

When you support MSU Extension 4-H programs, youth participants learn life skills that prepare them for the workforce – especially for highly sought after jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

January 24, 2019

Developing Youth and Communities

4-H is America’s largest youth development organization, providing educational opportunities to over 6 million youth. The 4-H program offers a vast selection of project area topics—science, healthy living, arts, and civic engagement to name a few, all with hands-on experiential learning for youth. 4-H programs are available for all youth ages 5-19, and are made possible by the service of our dedicated volunteers. We always welcome new members and new volunteers; if you are interested in joining 4-H, please contact the Clinton County/MSU Extension office at 989-224-5240 or email the Clinton County 4-H Program Coordinator, Corissa Harris, at harri446@anr.msu.edu. We would be happy to help you enroll today!

4-H learning opportunities

Clinton County 4-H provided local members and volunteers opportunities to connect to learning experiences both locally and beyond the County lines. These included:

  • 4-H Exploration Days - 10 Clinton County youth attended this pre-college awareness program for youth ages 11-19 held on the campus of Michigan State University. Youth and chaperones spent 3 days at MSU, lived in a dorm, ate in the cafeteria and attended Exploration Days classes they chose. Class sessions ranged from learning how to play a sport, weave a basket, learn a new language, show a chicken, open a checking account, or meet with a college admissions office.
  • 4-H Dairy Program - Clinton County continues to have the strongest 4-H Dairy Program in the state with a very active group of youth. They sent 32 youths to the North American International Livestock Expo, the largest all-breed, purebred livestock event in the world, with 10 livestock divisions and nearly 30,000 entries from the 48 contiguous states.

Clinton County 4-H ‘true leaders’ assist in Rangeland Wildfire Disaster Relief

Early in March of 2017, regions of Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas were devastated by uncontrollable wildfires and high winds. Large areas of grasslands that were used for grazing cattle were destroyed and ranchers in those regions struggled to care for and feed their livestock. Clinton County 4-H had a group of 10 members and 4 chaperones leave Clinton County during their Spring Break in April to assist with the relief efforts.

They stayed in the volunteer camp and helped in Knowles, Oklahoma, where they assisted with accommodations for other volunteers coming in from all over the United States to help where they could. The group was also assigned to work in Ashland, Kansas, where they rebuilt a chicken coup for a widow, built fence, picked up debris, cut and stacked firewood, cleaned and prepared for another volunteer camp and delivered milk replacer to a calf orphanage. Three members of the Clinton County 4-H group were interviewed for the Woodward News in Oklahoma.

This group of 4-H’ers, with the help of other 4-H Clubs raised enough money to make the trip, with several bake sales. They traveled with a palate of Calf Milk Replacer, several bags of donated toys and clothes and a lot of great spirit.

“I wanted to help the farmers out west to help ease their pain and make a difference in their lives,” said Lillie Decker, a 13-year-old Clinton County 4-H’er. “I had a barn fire a few years ago, and I know firsthand how it feels. People came from all over, and I learned that when you help people in need, it makes a big difference in their lives.”

They came back with many, many stories. One to mention though was the last Saturday they were still in Oklahoma and on their way home they stopped to get lunch. A gentleman was there with his wife asking the group where they were from and what they were doing in Oklahoma. As he was leaving he gave the lead chaperone $100 and told her to do something fun with the kids on their way home. They used this money to take the kids to the Meramec Caverns in Missouri.

Another story worth mentioning is the fact that on one of the last few days the kids were there they had the opportunity to cheer in one of the Michigan Convoys. They also were able to serve the drivers of that convoy lunch at the volunteer camp.

This was a fantastic experience for these members and they are continuing their efforts to raise more money for fence supplies.

These members have shown the real meaning of the 4-H Pledge.

Work of Heart

For the past 14 years, the Work of Heart program has provided continued support to the foster, adoptive, and kinship care families in Clinton County. Through this program families receive the ongoing educational and emotional support needed for children who have experienced trauma. One component of our program is the monthly Work of Heart Family Night. With the help of more than 30 dedicated volunteers, nine months of the year, the children participate in engaging youth activities while their parents meet for a support group session. This provides the entire family with opportunities to connect and network with others that face similar challenges. Over the years, this has resulted in a strong community of support among our families, many choosing to adopt the children out of the foster care system, normalization for children knowing they are among friends with similar backgrounds, and many volunteers that have witnessed children growing up over the years knowing they have a support system to rely on.

Supporting Adoptive, Foster and Kinship Families

Additionally, each year, the youth are provided with a Holiday Party and Store. This event draws in an additional 40 volunteers that provide the children with crafts, a visit with Santa, cookie decorating, games, and time to shop a the Work of Heart Holiday Store for gifts for their family members. They support the children as they wrap the presents they selected and get them ready to be taken home at the end of the event. This year we had 39 children participate with a total of 195 gifts wrapped and sent home for 19 Work of Heart Families.

Parenting support comes in many forms

Children and Youth Instructor, Patti Marrs, divides her time utilizing a variety of activities that help parents and their children, birth thru 8 yrs., develop healthy, active and strong relationships.

  • Community Parent/Child Play groups hosted by the Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency (CCRESA) bring instructors together with parents and children. The parents are allowed to develop trust in the instructors and a common focus on their children’s educational and emotional well-being. Instructors actively participate along with a fantastic team of teachers. Lesson plans are developed in all major domains that help children develop and grow, strengthen their abilities and challenge new skills. Bath Library hosts Book Eaters Book Club/ Lap Sit. This is a story hour filled with weekly themes of book choices, poems, and songs.
  • Other community partners include the Friend of the Court and Mindful Therapy in St. Johns., as well the students at the Migrant School at St. Peters School.

Many local families utilize the preschool experiences offered by MSU Extension.

We also collaborate within MSU Extension for a more holistic approach. Health and Nutrition Instructor, Roxanne White, provides nutrition education to youth while the Childhood Early Development team provides literacy and parenting information to the families. Information is provided in English and in some cases Spanish.

Other learning opportunities include:

  • Teaching child care responsibilities and techniques to teens working with children.
  • Taking advantage of MSU Extension Dairy Days on Campus, which provides education and active experience about cows, cattle and the dairy farming industry.
  • Providing education and reaching families through The Discovery Tent at the Clinton County Fair. Many of these youth do not participate in traditional 4-H programs, so this is a unique opportunity to reach many underserved youth.
  • Offering opportunities at Briggs Library for story hour while Project Connect is in progress.
  • Opportunities for Day-care and Preschool Provider Trainings to give caregivers information and strategies to help children and their parents, topics include: Positive Communication, Understanding the Toddlers World, Practicing Professional Behavior, Mathematics for Infants, and more.

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