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Students enjoy learning, friendship in 4-H

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories featuring agencies that are helped financially by the Covington County United Fund.

Straughn High School junior Holly Driver said she has learned a lot from her seven years in the 4-H club, but probably the most unique lesson has been how to grill a chicken.

“I’ve been at the Chicken-Q contest the past two years at Troy,” she said. “It’s been fun. I bet there aren’t many girls my age who know how to grill chicken the right way.”

Driver is one of more than 1,200 children in the county who participate in the 4-H program, which receives some of its funding from the Covington County United Fund. 4-H students participate in clubs at their local schools, and also attend regional and state competitions with other 4-H members across Alabama.

Cheyenne Hartin, a sixth grader at Pleasant Home School, said she most enjoyed the “$15 challenge.”

“Basically, it’s this contest where you have $15 and you have to spend it at a thrift store and make a complete outfit,” she said. “It teaches you how to spend money wisely and make your own unique style.”

Driver said 4-H isn’t all about meetings and contests, however.

“We’ve learned about hunter safety,” she said. “A few times, we’ve gone to sing to the people at the nursing home and we get to hold bake sales.”

Hartin said 4-H is “about using your hands, body and soul to help your community.” She especially enjoyed the chance to participate in the regional competition in Troy last year.

“It was really fun,” she said. “There were a lot of different events. There was freestyle cooking, tractor and lawn mower driving, public speaking and photography. You can also get scholarships through 4-H. I think it would be fun to stay in 4-H through high school and maybe get a scholarship.”

Tonya Bales is the assistant agent in charge of the county’s 4-H program. County extension agent Chuck Simon said she visits each club once a month and there are 36 clubs in the county.

“This year she’s even started doing a 4-H club for home-schooled students,” he said. “You can see why the money from the United Fund is vital for allowing us to run the 4-H program. It really goes 12 months a year; there’s a week-long summer camp every year as well.

“Most of the meetings include officers, and they learn how to follow parliamentary procedure and that sort of thing, just like if they were in a civic club like Kiwanis or the Pilots.”

Driver said one of the best things about 4-H is that there is “never a dull moment.”

“We always have things to do and you can do anything that interests you,” she said.

An additional benefit to 4-H activities is that they provide opportunities for students to meet new friends and improve their people skills.

“(Cheyenne) didn’t do the public speaking event at regionals, but she still had to talk to the judges and other people for her $15 challenge,” said Donese Hartin, Cheyenne’s mother. “She truly enjoys being in 4-H. It was great to go to Troy with her and see all the fun the kids were having, and the opportunities to do a variety of different things with the club.”

Coming Saturday: The Andalusia Public Library.