Service Learning: Get involved with 4-H

There are many opportunities available for students from Western Carolina University to work with children and teenagers in the community. The 4-H of Jackson County offers one of those opportunities.

Heather Gordon, who is in charge of 4-H Youth Development, stated, “[We] are looking for a different kind of volunteer. We want our volunteers to look at volunteering as an ongoing project. We are looking for people who are self-starters, wanting to take on a project such as helping lead a 4-H club, tutor a child in need, be a mentor. We want people who are willing to devote the time and commitment to help the children who are involved in 4-H.

“Although 4-H has an agriculture base as a way to help kids grow more produce from a plot of land and is still such in many areas, here in Jackson County the focus is on leadership and outdoor education,” Gordon continued. “We are another place where [university] students can get a chance to practice the skills they are learning in the classroom. Our volunteers do not have to be former 4-Hers, but people who are willing to be role models for the younger members of the community.”

Gordon said that she hopes to find new ways to connect the people of Western Carolina University with the community. There are a few prominent examples of this connectivity. The WHEE TEACH club of WCU is presently working with the students and faculty of Cullowhee Valley School to help cultivate the garden of The Whee Garden Club. The club is working to grow food for the Community Table which is located in Sylva. Also, the winners of the three talent contests that are held by the 4-H to promote mountain heritage will perform at the Mountain Heritage Day Festival which is hosted on WCU’s campus. Gordon also iterated the fact that they are always willing to work with students who need internships or academic credit.

The 4-H of Jackson County is actively working to teach kids leadership skills and how to be active members of their community. The 4-H is achieving this through their Youth Leadership Council. The Youth Leadership Council is looking for volunteers who are interested in helping the younger adolescents of this community become actively involved in the political and social activities that occur.

 Gordon hopes to create “. . .positive thinkers who will understand that we cannot go through our lives simply accepting the events that are thrown our way. We must understand the complexities of the system and how to act rightfully within it.”

For example, the Youth Leadership Council is currently working in conjunction with other organizations to take Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from a day off of work, school, etc. and create a “day on so to speak” where people can take this opportunity to make a positive impact on the community.

Gordon and the 4-H of Jackson County are looking for volunteers to be role models for the children who are involved. Opportunities include working on brochures and assisting in posting pictures to Facebook and other social media in addition to the long-term projects such as mentoring, tutoring and assisting the different clubs as a whole.

Gordon stated that “. . . sometimes it is hard to pinpoint an exact job description for our volunteers. Our situations and opportunities are always changing, and we can always use help. We want you to be able to help others grow while growing yourself.”

For more information call the 4-H of Jackson County at 828-586-4009.