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4-H seeks new members, state ambassadors

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Laurence Manning Academy students Logan Moore and Katherine Matthews have been taking on bigger roles within the 4-H Ambassadors Program throughout the 2016-17 school year, according to program coordinator Mary Margaret McCaskill. "We have two ambassadors in our county program," she said. "They both went through the training this past year, and they have been tremendous and have worked hard." Moore, a junior at Laurence Manning Academy, has even went a step further, serving as legislative liaison for the South Carolina 4-H Teen Council. Matthews, a freshman at Laurence Manning Academy, is currently working on recruiting students to be a part of 4-H Impact, which will serve as a 4-H leadership program. "Logan's been involved in the county Livestock Program since she was a little tiny thing," said McCaskill. "And Katherine has taken on the mantle of recruiting kids to be in the 4-H Impact program. Like you have Clarendon County Leadership, where you go to classes and tour places and learn about leadership roles in the community, we will have that for 4-H students. They will focus on community service, mainly." Overall, McCaskill said that 4-H is a "youth development program that focuses on leadership and building life skills in the areas of animals and agriculture; leadership and citizenship; personal development; healthy lifestyles; natural resources and science; and engineering and technology." "It is much different than what people think of when they think of 4-H," McCaskill said. "People think farming and animals, and that is certainly a part of it. But 4-H is so much more than what it was a few decades ago." Students ages 5 to 19 can join, and may go to any local school. "We have several different clubs, and they all meet at different times," said McCaskill. "We have three or four different community clubs, and then I have an in-school and after-school club."

McCaskill said the Ambassador Program is a statewide effort to train 4-H members within a competition system and leadership program. "We do things from the bottom up," she said. "So, you have your county-level programs, then regional programs and then state-level programs. The Ambassador Program is a step-up from the county and regional level." McCaskill said ambassadors like Moore and Matthews train once a year in August. "Any who have regional or county-level training are able to participate in this training to become 4-H ambassadors," she said. "I feel like the ambassador program's purpose is to prepare our 4-H members for bigger roles within the state organization. "Just like FFA has the state officer program, we have the same thing in 4-H. Every year at Congress, we vote new teen council members. Hopefully, all of the kids who are council have gone through the ambassador program." Overall, the day-long ambassador training teaches the students to education others about 4-H. "We call it an 'elevator speech,'" McCaskill said. "If you were on an elevator with someone for five minutes, how are you going to tell them about 4-H?" Ambassadors, aside from serving as team leaders for different state programs, work booths at the South Carolina State Fair, participate in state-level competitions and, most importantly, talk with prospective student members. "It's making more impact when the information comes from another youth, rather than from me or another adult," McCaskill said. "It works better coming from the kids who have already been through it." For more information, call Clarendon County Clemson Extension at (803) 435-8429, or visit this link.

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