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4-H citizenship, leadership and Extension centennial highlighted in Dover

On Wednesday, May 14, Delaware 4-H youth members and adult leaders from all three counties reinforced their commitment to citizenship and leadership by attending their 10th annual Delaware 4-H Legislative Day in Dover.

girl at podium speaking
Delaware 4-H Teen Officer McKenzie Ivory addresses the Delaware House Chamber about 4-H

4-H Legislative Day provides an opportunity for Delaware 4-H youth to observe how their local government operates, visit with local legislators and tour historic buildings and official state agencies. The 10-year tradition and interaction between 4-H youth and Delaware public servants showcases thedifferent ways Delaware is served by elected public servants and 4-H volunteer commitment to community service, citizenship and leadership.

More than 75 youth and adults attended. As they sat in the very seats and chambers where laws are made, attendees received a welcome from a familiar face, 4-H Extension Specialist Ernie Lopez. Lopez also serves as a Delaware State Senator from the 6th District and explained the challenges that come with creating, debating and enacting laws in the First State.  The 4-H youth and leaders also heard remarks from Delaware Rep. Tim Dukes, of Laurel. Dukes answered many questions from curious 4-H members. He told his audience, “The best way to lead, is to serve.”

After the welcome, the 4-H attendees were divided into tours and workshops which included historic Legislative Hall,  Department of Elections, the State Court House, State Auditor’s Office, Delaware Public Archives and the Delaware State Education Association.

Before 4-H’ers were invited to witness a session in the House chambers in the afternoon, a 4-H rally was held on the front lawn of Legislative Hall.  This year’s speakers included Michelle Rodgers, director of Cooperative Extension, Ernie Lopez and Sen. Gary Simpson.  Also during the rally, Delaware 4-H project leader Mark Manno announced the second Delaware 4-H Diamond Clover Award winner, Ashley Conroe, from Sussex County. Read more about Ashley Conroe’s Diamond Clover project.

View images from the 2014 4-H Legislative Day here.

Recognition of Delaware Cooperative Extension Centennial

Posed with resolution outside
Delaware legislature recognizes Cooperative Extension Centennial and contribution to Delaware. L to R: Rep. Ronald Gray, Michelle Rodgers, Sen. Gary Simpson and  Sen. Ernie Lopez

Wednesday marked the first 4-H Legislative Day for Michelle Rodgers.  A Pennsylvania 4-H alumna,  Rodgers enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Delaware history and traveled with first time 4-H tour visitors to the Delaware Public Archives. The month of May has had an historical focus for Rodgers. On May 8, Rodgers along with Extension colleagues, attended Washington D.C. to observe the official centennial celebration of Cooperative Extension. Many observations and celebrations for Delaware Cooperative Extension will occur throughout 2014. Rodgers reinforced the special connection between 4-H and Cooperative Extension at Wednesday’s rally.

“What a great history we have, and what a great future we have with 4-H’ers like yourselves who are becoming the leaders of tomorrow,” Rodgers said. “4-H is the youth component of Cooperative Extension.  Those of you in 4-H are really being introduced to a land grant university with a mission to deliver education long before you are a college student,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers explained that 4-H had been in existence a few years before the federal law, known as the Smith-Lever Act, was signed on May 8, 1914 and which formalized Cooperative Extension.  Before Extension, 4-H served the needs of rural youth through agricultural outreach trainings via canning clubs and corn clubs Rodgers said.

“Over those 100 years we’ve changed greatly,” Rodgers reflected. “We have many different ways that we have 4-H clubs now, and we have so many projects…everything from science, technology,  math, engineering, robotics and great animal projects that we still have. We have a great history.” Rodgers reminded the crowd that the 4-H motto, “To Make the Best Better” remains relative as the focus for the next 100 years.

“Think about the important part you play in establishing laws and policies that will impact families in the years to come. We are very proud of our 4-H’ers,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers introduced Sen. Gary Simpson, a 4-H alumni from the Kent County Houston Cardinals 4-H Club.

“You are at a historical moment in your lives,” Simpson told the gathering. “My uncle was the first 4-H’er in Delaware, a long, long time ago.”

Simpson reflected on the value that 4-H and Cooperative Extension had on his life. “My 4-H experience set me up for life.”

Simpson was also pleased to make a special announcement.”Almost to the day that Cooperative Extension Service began in this country, today I am happy to sponsor a current resolution, not just a tribute, but a resolution in the Delaware Senate recognizing the 100th anniversary.” Simpson said.  The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Lopez.

“For a bill to pass, both sides must vote” Simpson said. The bill, which extolls the many impacts of Cooperative Extension on agriculture, families, and recognizes Extension as a “critical component of the three-part land grant university mission,”  concluded with a statement encouraging people to “observe and celebrate the centennial with a focus on launching an innovative future for Cooperative Extension.” The resolution easily passed the Senate Wednesday afternoon and in the House on Thursday, May 15.

Click here to read>> Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 54.

Simpson credited Cooperative Extension for the innovations in modern agriculture and the research and education behind the best programs developed in order to grow food. “Talk to any farmer, Cooperative Extension Service is what lead to their success.”

“It was a great day of 4-H education and celebration of Cooperative Extension’s 100 years” Rodgers said.

Article by Michele Walfred
Photos by Mark Manno and Michele Walfred