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‘I can’t imagine my life without 4-H’: Mon students talk to BOE about their association with the enrichment program

Ben Martin was a self-described “shy kid” growing up – but you never would have known that, judging by his appearance before members of the Monongalia County Board of Education on Tuesday night.

He told the board all about his life in 4-H, the enrichment program that helps young people build both intellect and a sense of self.

“As I grew up, it just became so intertwined with my youth and what I see as community,” the Morgantown High School student said. “I can’t imagine my life without 4-H.”

Last year, nearly 7,000 children and teenagers from across Mon County participated in 4-H programs, which are run through the WVU Extension Service.

There were nature walks and an introduction to “Keef,” a dragon who still has all his baby teeth, in a session designed to take a bite out of the fear of going to the dentist.

Add in the primers on computer coding and money management, too.

Toss in that memorable, MacGyver-styled lesson on how to build a working flashlight with a Popsicle stick, copper tape and a paper clip – and there’s your year, Heather Tanton said.

Tanton is a 4-H program assistant whose salary is funded through dollars from excess levy for education.  

She’s grateful for that, she told the board.

The width, breadth and diversity of the above programs and more make her happy to go to work every day, she said.

“We can always come up with something that a kid will like,” the program assistant said.

And right now, said Becca Fint-Clark, who leads  4-H youth development efforts here for the service, it’s pretty apparent that kids here like what’s out there.

She and Tanton are about to embark on their fall session of learning activities and 190 returning 4-H’ers signed up two weeks ago when the first call for registration went out.

Fint-Clark, she said, also appreciates the overture by county voters at the polls who almost always vote in the affirmative for the excess levy come election day.

“We’re coming to you from a place of gratitude,” she told the BOE.

Brigid Wilson said a lot of roots spring from the four-leaf clover that serves as the organization’s logo.

“4-H told me how to interact with others,” said the Morgantown High student, whose association goes back to her kindergarten days.

“It taught me how to be a volunteer.”