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National 4-H week has rich history

By Christina Ritter

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…It’s NATIONAL 4-H WEEK! National 4-H Week takes place each year in October. This year’s National 4-H Week takes place October 4-10. 4-H members, 4-H volunteers, 4-H agents, 4-H leaders and 4-H parents from all over the world work hard year round to MAKE THE BEST BETTER! This week the local and county 4-H clubs/groups have the opportunity to showcase what they have gained from their membership in 4-H activities and events at the local and county level.

The history of National 4-H Week dates back to the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. What is now known as National 4-H Week began as an outgrowth of World War II. Following Pearl Harbor, it was decided to postpone holding the National 4-H Camp in Washington, D.C., until the cessation of hostilities. W. H. Palmer, State 4-H Leader in Ohio, soon after announced plans for a State 4-H Mobilization Week for Ohio as a means of focusing the attention of 4-H members on what they might do for national defense. This idea met with favorable response by State leaders throughout the country. As a result, the Federal Extension Service initiated National 4-H Mobilization Week which was observed annually in 1942, 1943 and 1944. The following year and each year since, it has been observed as National 4-H Week.

The focus during National 4-H Mobilization Week was on encouraging 4-H members to produce foods needed by rural men and women in the armed services; enlist as many young people eligible for membership as possible in all rural areas, particularly those living on farms, in some phase of the 4-H Club war program; to report on 4-H Club work which had already been started in terms of how it would contribute to family production and conservation goals and how it would contribute toward the total amount needed by rural men and women now in the armed services.

During this same period, the mid-1940’s, a National 4-H Achievement Week was celebrated in November. This was a time to promote 4-H by emphasizing the accomplishments of that year and to recruit new members and leaders and plan for the next year.

After the war, when the National 4-H Mobilization Week became National 4-H Week, the purpose of the Week centered on (1) acquainting the public with the new, enlarged 4-H program, and the many ways young people may take part, (2) encourage more youth to join 4-H, (3) urge more men and women to volunteer as 4-H leaders, (4) recognize parents’ contribution to 4-H and strengthen their cooperation, and (5) report the year’s 4-H accomplishments and plan for the year ahead.

Christina Ritter, M.S. is County Extension Agent, 4-H and Youth Development at the Orange County Texas A&M AgriLlife Extension Service.