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WELD COUNTY — Weld County has a “good-sized” 4-H Youth Development program, according to Keith Maxey, director of the Colorado State University Extension’s Weld County office.
But there’s still plenty of room left to grow.
Maxey said Weld’s nearly century-old program is still going strong, but said the 1,000 or so current youth members make up only about 2 percent of the more than 50,000 eligible boys and girls living in the county.
“We have a strong, tradition-based program with a lot of support,” Maxey said. “But (the program) is funded as a partnership between federal, state and county or local government. And while the county is happy to continue to fund us at the level they are, they’re also not necessarily looking at increasing funding.”
Stagnant funding, however, doesn’t discount the need for more program support through additional staffing.
“Over the last few years we’ve heard people talk about 4-H and maybe the need to expand the program,” Maxey said. “And we’ve done that as best as possible with the budget the way it is. We’re not in a position to get increased state funding, and this is not a mandated program.
“But we think we have a pretty good program,” he added.
So, Maxey said the Weld County 4-H and the CSU Extension office have begun a fundraising campaign to solicit donations from the community that would be invested in a manner as to create a perpetually solvent position for decades to come.
“We felt that the best way to approach this was to go out and raise the money to endow an additional 4-H position,” Maxey said. “We think we need to reach more people; this is our way to do that.”
Referred to as “The $2 Million Project,” Maxey said that total would afford CSU Extension officials the opportunity to invest the funding for a return of 4 to 5 percent annually, or between $80,000 and $100,000 — enough to fund the position “in perpetuity.”
Maxey said the fund drive presents its fair share of challenges, particularly since the 4-H Club — like most nonprofits — has no budget for advertising or marketing. Instead, Maxey said the effort is largely a grassroots one including everything from networking at events like the Colorado Farm Show or chamber of commerce meetings to literally knocking on doors.
“We’ve done several things so far but probably the biggest amount of effort right now has been in personal visits with individuals or companies,” he said. “We’re working in one-on-one fashion to kind of explain in more detail what we’re trying to do.”
Maxey said even the kids themselves are in on the effort, and said the 4-H is holding an unofficial contest aimed to encourage members to find donors.
“We’re trying to get them to help identify some people out there who might be able to contribute,” Maxey said. “It’s a very broad base.”
If successful, the new position will also serve as a nod to a former 4-H volunteer and supporter Maxey said died unexpectedly last year.
The Jean Hoshiko Memorial Endowment, Maxey said, has the potential to help the 4-H do what it’s done since 1917: Help change children’s lives for the better by teaching kids how to stay connected and succeed through confidence, social competency, care and compassion.
By the numbers
On the Colorado 4-H website (www.colorado4h.org) is a link to a recent study by Colorado State University of the benefits of the 4-H Club for participating youth.
The purpose of that study: “As state and county budgets become tighter and tighter, the 4-H Youth Development program must demonstrate its effectiveness with sound data to enhance the rich anecdotal information more easily available,” it reads. “Research-based information is critical to future 4-H … programs.” The study included children who participated in other out-of-school activities that were not 4-H.
According to that study, children who participate in 4-H are better students and leaders, have stronger self-identity and bigger roles in the community, and are generally more socially competent, caring and compassionate.
In academics, the study shows 91.3 percent of 4-H participants had “B’s and C’s” or better, with nearly 75 percent getting B’s and A’s or all A’s (38.2 percent). At the same time, 83.2 percent of non-participants had “B’s and C’s” or better, with only about 58 percent getting B’s and A’s or all A’s (26 percent).
From there, the trickle-down effect is clear: The participants top non-participants by margins of 10 percent or more in leadership initiatives and social competency. For example, three of every 10 participants take on some sort of elected role, compared to just two of 10 non-participants.
But perhaps most telling — and most beneficial to society at large — are numbers that show participants are much more likely to volunteer and give back to the community. In particular, participants are over 15 percent more likely to become involved in projects that help others or to give money or time to charity.
“We have a really good history and lots of research-based information showing that this program is beneficial to youth,” Maxey concluded.