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For the kids: AFRC partners with 4.H to provide positive youth development.

In an environment where deployments continue to be plentiful and operations tempos remain high, military families need all the support they can get.

With that goal in mind. Air Force Services Family Member Programs is partnering with 4-H, a national organization with strong ties in local communities throughout the country, to help provide positive youth development programs for children of Air Force Reservists.

The "H's" in 4-H stand for Heart. Head, Hands and Health. Through its almost 100,000 clubs, the organization serves more than 9 million members in the United States ranging in age from 5 to 21. 4-H clubs and related organizations now exist in many other countries as well.

According to the North Dakota State University Extension Service Web site, 4-H originated in the early 1900's because of a vital need to improve life in rural areas. Introducing improved methods of farming and homemaking. 4-H taught youth to "learn by doing."

Although it remains very much an agriculture-based organization, 4-H is about much more than just cows, plows and sows. It has evolved over the years to offer today's youth a wide variety of activities in such areas as photography, rocketry, arts and theater, and robotics. However, one thing that hasn't changed is the organization's steadfast emphasis on leadership development.

"While 4-H still meets the needs of children in agriculture and livestock projects, it offers additional activities in a variety of fields and teaches children life-skills." said Kellie Day, a 4-H military parent. "From public speaking to computer skills and skateboarding to robotics, 4-H has projects available for every child's interests.

"4-H is a way for kids of all backgrounds to learn more and meet new friends while still having fun."

Nearly 50 million Americans from all walks of life have been 4-H members. A few of the more famous 4-H alumni are Jimmy Carter, Julia Roberts, Roy Rogers, John ' Denver. Dolly Parton, Alan Shepard, Don Meredith, Tom Wopat, Charley Pride, Orville Redenbacher. Nancy Grace and Reba Mclntyre.

"4-H teaches leadership, teamwork, decision-making, character development, community service and critical thinking," said Brandi Mullins, Air Force Reserve Command child and youth specialist. "Everything we do has to fit some life skill."

As part of the organization's partnership with the Air Force, each active-duty base must have at least three 4-H clubs. Air Force programs are geared toward children age 9 to 19, Those who don't live near an active-duty installation aren't out of luck, because 4-H clubs can be found in almost every county in the United States, Mrs. Mullins said. And membership is free.

"No matter where you live, there is most likely a 4-H club in that area," she said. "This makes it easy for children (of military members) to bring their activities with them when they move. Moving from one club to another allows children to get plugged in with new friends in that area, making the transition much easier."

In addition to all of the "regular" activities. 4-H clubs with military ties also offer programs designed specifically to assist families with deployment issues and help keep parents and children connected during deployment, Mrs. Mullins said. One example is Operation Military Kids, which was developed specifically for Guard and Reserve families.

Operation Military Kids comprises four parts. One part involves the giving of "hero packs" that include items such as cameras, pens and journals to help parents and children stay in touch with each other during a deployment.

Another part of the program is mobile technology labs, which provide teleconferencing opportunities as well as video cameras and digital cameras. Speak Out for Military Kids is a program that prepares teens to speak in public on military life and deployments.

"It's a chance for adults and kids to go out in the community and promote awareness about what kids go through when a parent is deployed," Mrs. Mullins said.

The fourth part of the Operation Military Kids program is Air Force Adventure Camps, which teach life skills through high-adventure activities.

Mrs. Mullins said 4-H provides children with a quality program they can be a part of while allowing Reservists and other military members to focus on the mission.

"So, if you haven't considered 4-H as a military-friendly, extracurricular activity for your child before now, you may want to look into it." Mrs. Day said' "4-H could be everything that you have been looking for in an activity for your child."

In addition to its partnership with 4-H, the Air Force has enjoyed a close working relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of America for the past 10 years. There are approximately 400 youth centers located on military bases within the United States and abroad that are affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club of America. Each provides a variety of educational, recreational, cultural and social activities for youth. Information is available at any youth center.

For more information on 4-H, contact your local cooperative extension office or go online to www.4HUSA.org. Also, Mrs. Mullins can be reached via telephone at (478) 327-2090 or e-mail at brandi.mullins@afrc.af.mil. For information about the Boys and Girls Club, visit www.bgca.org/military.

(Sergeant Babin is assigned to the 920th Rescue Wing public affairs office at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. He wrote this story while on temporary duty assignment to Citizen Airman at Robins AFB. Ga.

By Master Sgt. Chance C. Babin
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Author:Babin, Chance C.
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:900
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