Kansas 4-H gears up for new program year
MANHATTAN — Kansas 4-H Youth Development specialist Amy Sollock has a message for youth looking for an after-school activity this fall: We’ll be here for you.
In an uncertain time, the state’s largest youth organization – with more than 74,000 members in 2019 – has adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to offer both online and in-person programs, said Sollock, who is located in southwest Kansas.
“We learned a lot over this past spring and summer,” she said. “While we definitely love gathering in person and enjoy developing relationships face-to-face, we know that 4-H can look a little different now and still be successful.”
Sollock said state officials are busy training volunteers and equipping them with the resources and tools to continue offering 4-H programs in online and in-person formats.
“We’ve got more than 30 4-H project areas that kids can explore,” she said. “The great thing about that is that even if you have multiple kids, you all can participate in the same program; parents don’t have to take them to different places. If you have one kid who’s really interested in photography, and another that is curious about rocketry, you can all go to 4-H and still make it happen.”
The new 4-H year begins October 1, Sollock said. Youth are encouraged to contact their local extension office to get involved. 4-H is open to youth who will be at least seven years old by January 1, 2021, through high school-aged youth.
“We really believe passionately about finding that spark for a given child,” Sollock said. “We are all about exploring different interest areas, trying new things, sampling a lot of different hobbies. And during that process, youth develop a passion that ignites a spark and leads to a rich and long path of discovery. Often times, it also leads to a career.”
She added that Kansas 4-H also is always looking for volunteers who can help youth along their path.
“One of the most fulfilling aspects of my job is when I can find adults, give them the proper training and resources to work with kids, and see those kids develop a love for a given project area because of that volunteer,” Sollock said. “It’s a pretty magical thing. We don’t know who’s learning more from who, whether it’s the child learning from the volunteer, or the volunteer learning from the kids.”