Crafting a new generation of 4-H’ers through the Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration
Sanilac County 4-H volunteer lends 35 years of expertise to the event planning committee.
The Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration has seen many changes over the years, and Sanilac County 4-H volunteer Terry Bell has been there to see many of them. A longtime participant, Bell has been attending the celebration for more than 20 years and six years ago, joined the planning committee as a way to get involved with 4-H outside of her county.
“I thought it sounded fun,” said Bell. “This has been a workshop that has been a favorite of mine over the years.”
The Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration, formerly known as the 4-H Visual and Performing Arts Workshop, is an annual event held by Michigan 4-H, the youth development program of Michigan State University Extension. By attending, 4-H adult and youth teen leaders learn new ideas for working with youth in crafts, sewing, clothing and textile, creative writing, cooking, and visual and performing arts projects. The goal is that participants will take the knowledge and skills they gain back and teach youth in their communities.
“It is really great to watch the youth usually start out really shy at the beginning of the weekend and by the end of the weekend, they are out of their shell,” said Bell. “It is also great to watch them light up when they are able to master a new skill and be excited about it. You can be pretty sure that they are going to take it home and show it to at least one person outside of their family and probably teach it to someone else.”
For Bell, the value was not just in learning new crafts and new ways to teach old crafts, but also in sharing ideas on how to handle different situations when teaching. As the only volunteer on the all-staff planning committee, Bell hopes volunteers will continue to benefit from the workshop as she has always done.
“Relax, try new things, retry some that you have not done in a while,” Bell said. “Let someone else do the cooking and cleaning up. Give another try to something that you have not been able to do. Learn ideas and things to take home with you to teach to your 4-H’ers. Listen to 4-H’ers ideas on how they might like to do something.”
Bell spends a great deal if time listening to 4-H ideas in her community, where she has been a 4-H leader for 35 years. As the administrative leader of the Sanilac County Teen Club, Bell supports youth in community service projects as well as runs a food booth at the Sanilac County Fair. Funds raised at the food booth support other community service activities, as well as scholarships for active members to attend 4-H meetings and trainings. Bell also helps other counties, judging at their fairs and teaching craft workshops.
“It's just a fun thing,” Bell said of volunteering for Michigan 4-H. “I always say that parents who don't get involved in what their children are doing at school and whatever they are involved with are missing out on so much. I have enjoyed watching my kids grow because of the things that they learned and experienced in 4-H. They are still using these things in their jobs and other parts of their lives now.”
Bell encourages all adults to get involved with the 4-H community and give their time to local youth.
“It is never too late to become involved in 4-H. You can be 19 or 90, you always have something to give and learn. 4-H is not just for the kids. As an adult you always keep learning, and it helps us get out of our comfort zone too. 4-H is a lifelong adventure. If you don't have kids at home, don't let that stop you. You have experience and skills that someone needs, so come on out and see what you can share and what you can learn.”