A trip to Konawaena Elementary School Sunday afternoon proved to be heartfelt fun.
Dozens of Big Island children and their families participated in the Kona 4-H Federation’s free Valentine’s Fun Day in the school cafeteria. From making tasty treats to creating love bugs and carefully cutting out paper hearts for cards, they participated in 12 creative, kid-friendly projects that will likely enchant valentines young and old.
The purpose of the event was to give 4-H members, ages 5 to 19, an opportunity to develop and demonstrate leadership, citizenship and practical life skills. Each club was responsible for coming up with a project and leading that activity, said Natalie Cross, program assistant for the Kona 4-H Federation.
“By giving youth a chance to use skills, such as public speaking, teamwork, managing resources and decision-making, in real-life situations like this demonstration day, it validates what they’ve been learning,” said Joan Chong, the West Hawaii 4-H adviser and a 4-H youth development educator. “It also showcases their talents and creativity.”
Sunday’s two-hour event was also an opportunity to promote 4-H, one of the nation’s largest youth development organizations. Attendees were introduced to the various clubs that exist locally.
4-H has been around for more than 100 years and originally formed as an agricultural organization. However, it no longer focuses just on farming. The organization has evolved. Many clubs now teach community involvement, performing arts, science, ecology, nutrition, environmental education and many other topics. Nevertheless, the goal has remained the same. 4-H continues to help young people improve and make the best better through rewarding programs that emphasize learning by doing, Chong said.
“4-H helps young people to reach their full potential as competent, confident leaders of character who contribute and are connected to their communities,” Cross said. “Whether youth are caring for animals, planting vegetables, or doing beach clean-ups, 4-H gives young people the skills they need to thrive and succeed throughout their lives.”
The Kona 4-H Federation is part of the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service’s youth development education program. In West Hawaii, there are roughly 16 clubs and more than 100 members, Chong said.
New members are always welcome. The clubs meet monthly and membership is free. Each club chooses its own projects and special interest areas, which allows youth to experiment, innovate and think independently. However, 4-H has three primary initiatives: healthy living; science and technology; and citizenship, Cross said.
The clubs are run by dedicated, passionate volunteer 4-H leaders, who are vital to the program’s success. Other short- and long-term adult volunteers are also needed, whether it’s to share their expertise with clubs or to host field trips, Cross said.
Twelve-year-old Tori Oshiro has been involved with 4-H since kindergarten and considers her peers in her club, Twinkling Stars, to be some of her best friends. What she enjoys most about the organization is meeting new people, learning new things and practicing skills that will serve her well in college, the work force and in society. Over the years, Oshiro said she has become more confident and a better speaker.
Fifteen-year-old Malia Command joined 4-H in 2006 because she wanted “to make more friends and be more outgoing.” The most important thing the organization has taught her is the value of community service. Her club, Aloha Angels, has helped elementary and preschool students, the Kona Community Hospital, and the American Red Cross.
“Through 4-H, you realize that there’s more to life than just yourself, and even small things can make a big difference for others,” Command said.
To get involved or for more information about 4-H, call 322-0166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.