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Beth Hawse came by her love for 4-H the old-fashioned way—she lived it.
As a fourth-grader she saw a presentation on all that 4-H camp had to offer and she knew she had to take part.
“I was hooked,” she said of her camp experience.
And it’s been a part of her life ever since.
Hawse is the new extension agent in Bedford County in charge of 4-H Youth Development.
The goal of 4-H, she said, is to help youth develop into good citizens, and to learn leadership skills. Through 4-H, young people are encouraged to participate in activities that emphasize “learning by doing.”
The 4-H programs, she said, go far beyond just livestock clubs.
Environmental education is her specialty; Hawes worked for 13 years in the state park system and then went to work for the extension service in Rockbridge County. There she did a lot of work in schools including Trout in the Class and Tree Trekking programs. Other classes focused on presenting the mammals of Virginia to school students.
“The plan is to get into the classrooms here like I did in Rockbridge,” she said.
Her programs, which are Standards of Learning-friendly, focus on the middle school students. Other programs include lessons on health and nutrition.
4-H programs are designed for youth ages 9-19 and there is a Cloverbuds program for children 5 to 8 years old. In coming to Bedford, Hawes inherits a program that has six established 4-H clubs of one kind or another. She’ll work to keep those clubs strong while adding more to the programming.
The 4-H year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 so enrollment has been underway for several weeks. There is a Facebook page that provides additional information.
She hopes to develop a lot more in-school programming and clubs here in Bedford County.
Continuing the summer camp program is important for the program. The camp is for youth ages 9-12 and those older can become counselors-in-training and eventually camp counselors. “The middle school age is where we start training our CIT’s,” she said. “That’s where they take on leadership roles for us at camp.”
This year’s 4-H camp is scheduled for June 16-20.
Hawes is a graduate of Alleghany High School with an undergraduate degree from Mary Baldwin College in biology. She is finishing up a master’s from Mary Baldwin in environmental base learning.
She believes 4-H is one of the best youth programs available. “We have so much to offer,” Hawes said. “We are much more than cows and corn.”
Just because a child isn’t interested in agriculture doesn’t mean he or she won’t find something of interest through 4-H. “There’s so much more than that,” Hawes said. “We have something for everyone.”
The key to developing new programming will be adult volunteers, she said. “4-H is a volunteer organization. There’s only one of me. There’s no way that one person can provide programming for all the youth. We’re always looking for adult volunteers.”