4-H Club sees growth over past decade
Ethan Willers will soon graduate high school and he is sure about his career path - wildlife and forestry management.
The homeschooler made his decision after years of involvement with Oktibbeha County's 4-H Clubs.
"It's given me the opportunity to explore many different fields and careers to get an idea of how different things operate," he said.
Willers began participating in 4-H activities when he was four years old and now works with the organization's leadership team.
"It's taught me leadership skills and encouraged me by providing good friends," he said.
Willers wants to attend Mississippi State University after he graduates.
Dispersed throughout every state county by MSU's Extension services, 4-H clubs offer children and young adults training in trades such as beekeeping, interior design and livestock farming.
Other young adults, such as Jeremy Brown, were able to do community service on a federal level in Washington D.C.
"We also raked leaves in Atlanta," said the West Oktibbeha County High School senior who first joined 4-H when he was six years old.
Because 4-H gave him the opportunity to attend an engineering camp at MSU, Brown wants to attend the university and major in industrial technology.
Oktibbeha County's 4-H agent Latrelle Stokes has seen the organization grow to over 420 youth and 177 adult volunteers.
"We could not do anything without our volunteers," she said.
One volunteer, Leota Cardwell, joined 4-H at age 10 when she lived in Texas before she moved to Starkville in 1952.
"In Texas you had to be 10," she said.
Since she has lived in Starkville she has served on the 4-H volunteer board and still attends meetings.
"I learned to speak through 4-H," Cardwell said, crediting the organization for her ability to speak to crowds of 400 people.
Each year she honors a senior 4-H member with the Joe and Leota Cardwell Leadership Award.
"It encourages them to continue to be a good leader, because I felt like I've been a good leader all my life and still do," she said.
4-H operations benefit from donations by United Way of North Central Mississippi, which is in the middle of its funding campaign.
"The money we receive from United Way helps us conduct our services," Stokes said. "I don't know how strong our program would be if we did not get their contributions."
To donate to 4-H Clubs through United Way, call 323-3830 or send a check to P.O. Box 1603, Starkville, MS 39759.
One time donations are acceptable as well as payroll deductions and participation in a United Way event such as the Festival of Trees on November 9 through 13 at MSU's Palmero Center, where a holiday party and auction will take place on Thursday, November 11 at 7 p.m.
For more information about 4-HClubs, call 323-5916.