(BPT) - Think about how your child spends their time outside of school. How do they use their free time and what goes into their minds?
What would happen if they put down the electronic devices and had real-life experiences that grew their minds, strengthened their character and built leadership skills?
Fall is the perfect time to look for 4-H programs right in your community. These clubs give kids a chance to do community service, develop a wide variety of projects, practice their leadership skills, build confidence and attend summer camp.
Another good thing about 4-H is that these programs are truly community driven. The kids work with adult volunteer mentors who live and work near you, and the programs are developed and backed by a public university in your state. 4-H also counts on the support of businesses and local organizations.
For example, Tractor Supply Company offers its Paper Clover in-store fundraiser twice a year, which gives customers a chance to make a donation during checkout to raise money to send kids to 4-H camp.
Since 2010, this fundraiser has raised $11 million, and last year more than 14,000 kids went to 4-H camp, thanks to the grants and scholarships made possible by the Paper Clover. Unlike other checkout fundraisers, 90 percent of the money raised at any given Tractor Supply Paper Clover fundraiser stays in the community.
According to Debra Smith, the Tractor Supply store manager in Chesapeake, Virginia, more than 120 kids regularly participate in 4-H activities at the store to support club projects focused on agriculture, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), healthy living and citizenship.
'Our community really rallies behind Tractor Supply's Paper Clover campaign,' Smith said. 'When you meet these kids, it's easy to see how exceptional they are and the impact these programs have had in their lives.'
With the many benefits of 4-H, now's a good time to get involved. Here are just four things kids gain from their involvement with 4-H.
They gain practical experience:The many projects and programs that 4-H offers helps kids learn and develop skills, many of which have real-life applications. For many 4-H'ers, their chosen projects may be the start of a lifelong hobby. For example, some states offer wildly popular photography programs, and you'll see 4-H'ers work on display at county and state fairs. Other programs can have a direct bearing on children's future careers, and provide them with an introduction to jobs in engineering, computer science, health care and more. In fact, for the 2.6 million 4-H youth who live in rural America, 4-H has a deep tradition of giving youth hands-on experience in agriculture programs, including biotechnology, veterinary sciences, forestry and raising animals.
They develop their leadership skills:Because 4-H is designed to empower youth, many gain opportunities to take on leadership roles in their clubs, whether they mentor younger members or help plan and execute a community project. The valuable leadership skills youth gain from their experience in 4-H can be applied throughout their lifetime.
They learn healthy choices: Healthy living isn't the first thing that comes to mind when talking about 4-H. But the opportunities to learn about healthy living runs the gamut, including good nutrition and good physical health for individuals, plus food science and finding ways to make communities better places.
They build better communities: While kids are in 4-H, an important part of the program is looking for opportunities to give back. A recent study by Tufts University shows that kids in 4-H are four times more likely to make a contribution to their community, and twice as likely to be civically active.
Whether you live on a farm, a small town, the suburbs or the city, chances are there is one or more 4-H club going strong in your community. To find a 4-H club in your area, visit 4-h.org/find/.
For more about Tractor Supply's partnership with 4-H, visit www.tractorsupply.com/4-h.