5 Life Lessons That 4-H Taught Me
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5 Life Lessons That 4-H Taught Me

​4-H is more than an eleven year membership, it's a lifetime of lessons and memories.

5 Life Lessons That 4-H Taught Me

This upcoming week will be my last one as a 4-H member. After eleven long years, my summer will no longer be filled with countless fair projects. Since I was eight, I’ve been blessed to be able to show in the World's Largest County 4-H Fair, which just happens to be right next door to my house. I grew up just miles away from the McLean County Fairground, and I’ve attended the fair for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen all of the changes in venue and this year I even experienced some of it from the other side. It’s been quite a job, trying to make sure my tasks are accomplished before showtime!

And now, I’m down to my final week, days and moments as member of 4-H. It's weird to think about it, since 4-H has a been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. However, even after my time as a 4-Her is over, I’ll always remember the life lessons I’ve learned.

1. Deadlines

Keeping track of deadlines is crucial to being a member of 4-H, and any good 4-Her knows the three most important deadlines of the year. If you miss any of them, you could end up losing your membership and/or not being able to show in the fair!

There’s the first deadline, January 1st, where membership enrollment occurs. You have plenty of time between the previous fair and your new enrollment, so there’s really no excuse for missing it.

Then there’s *April 1st*, when project enrollment is due. Stress runs high at this deadline, because if you miss any project area, you’ll be unable to sign up for the classes you want!

And finally there’s July 1st, when class enrollment and final project declarations are due. Hopefully at this point you’ve started (at least some of) your projects, so that you have a good idea of what you’ll actually take to the fair. Once this deadline has passed, it’s a quick sprint to the finish line of submitting final projects.

4-H has taught me to keep careful notes about when things are due. Whether you're submitting paperwork or projects, it's important to hold yourself accountable. Not only is this useful in school, where I’ve had to juggle homework assignments and projects, but I've also used these skills when I'm studying for quizzes and tests. I've learned to carefully mark these important dates on a calendar so that I'm able to plan ahead and get everything done.

2. Patience

Once you have all your paperwork submitted, it’s time to focus on the actual projects. And of course, just like anything that is due at a certain time and will be checked for quality… there will be a lot that goes wrong. That’s where patience comes in. Many of the techniques that you intend to use in the fair take practice. I know that I’ve spent weeks practicing cake decorating before I create my final cake to bring to the fair. And even as I’m creating my cake, it takes patience to finish, so that I don't have to re-do anything that I deem isn’t fair quality.

I believe it's a good experience for a young child to focus and work on a project for a while, because there's such a marvelous sense of accomplishment when it's finally done. Young 4-Hers learn that their patience will pay off, whether it be in the form of ribbons, compliments or actual money. Your hard work will be worthwhile in the end, but it will take many moments of patience!

3. Quality

There's that saying “Quality is more important than quantity.” And honestly….that's a very accurate description. It holds true in life, and it definitely holds true at the fair. I’ve had years where I’ve entered almost 35 projects (man, were those summers rough) but only received high ratings on one or two of them. However, I’ve also had years (like this one) where I’m submitting less than five projects. Can you guess which year had more quality projects?

This past summer has been a crazy one for me. I've juggling class, work, and fair projects. Almost every free moment of this entire summer has been spent on sewing a quilt that I hope will last the rest of my life. In doing so, yes, I knew that I would be taking time away from other smaller projects that I could bring. But I also know that the quality of this quilt will (hopefully) be noticed by all who visit the project area.

Whether it's a graded school assignment or even a small project that very few people would notice, quality is one of the most important things you can bring to the table. You'll appreciate your project for years, because it will last all those years!

4. Explaining and Documenting A Process

It's definitely a pain to document every step of a long and difficult process. But have you ever made something that you're proud of, only to be asked how...and not remember? What a bummer! It made sense to you while you were making it, but now that you've been asked to recreate your steps, you're stuck!

Through record keeping and 3x5 cards, 4-H has taught me the ability to take notes on a process while it's happening, so that I can remember later on! Instead of being stuck with a single project, I can recreate anything that I've made into other items that I can love just as much!

Not only is it nice to be able to write down able process, but you should also be able to explain it. Conference Judging at the fair, though scary at first, teaches 4-H members to recall and explain their process. When judges ask questions about your project, it reaffirms your understanding about what you've created!

5. Leadership

Oh man. 4-H has taught me so much about leadership that I don't even know where to begin! Not only do the four life lessons above build into leadership skills, but so do the thousands of projects I've made, and the hundreds of 4-H meetings I've attended. Each and every project requires a vision to be finished. Whether that comes in the form of making a to-do list, or planning out each step, your project won't just appear in your life. Setting goals and marking your progress is a great way to see how far you've come - and both of these are leadership techniques.

4-H offered me the ability to step into leadership roles from a young age. As a member of a small club, I was able to act as treasurer and secretary for my club before I entered high school. This was a small stepping stone into larger leadership roles in my extracurriculars in high school. I greatly appreciate all the ways my peers and leaders mentored me as I grew in my leadership skills.

It’s never really goodbye, because what I’ve learned in 4-H will stick with me the rest of my life. I expect to use these life lessons in the rest of my college experience and into the workplace. 4-H is more than an eleven year membership, it's a lifetime of lessons and memories.Thanks 4-H!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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