Testimony in Support of 4-H
October 2, 2019
Editor’s note: I was interviewing Ann Bitz for 4-H week, as a former 4-H leader when she mentioned she had testified in front the Board of Regents in support of 4-H. She has been a 4-H leader for 20 years and I thought what she said during her testimony was everything needing to be said. Her entire testimony is here:
I would like to share with you and the Board of Regents why adequate funding for the Montana Extension Service is so very important. The MSU Extension Service played and still plays a key role in the decisions I make and activities I participate in. My involvement with the Extension Service began when I enrolled as a 4-H member. I was a 10 year 4-H member, served as a leader for 11 years, and am currently serving as one of the 2 State Advisors. My early involvement in 4-H helped me develop public speaking skills and demonstration skills that took me to the campus of Montana State University for the State 4-H Congress. My familiarity with the campus at MSU and the variety of work of the Extension Agent lead me to attend MSU where I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics Extension/Education. I had been considering attending an out of state school, but because I felt at home at MSU, I chose to attend there.
It is hard to express everything that the Extension Service has done for me through the 4-H program. The knowledge, life-time learning mind-set, and application of acquired skills and knowledge from 4-H projects that were impressed upon me 40 years ago are still being used today. Public speaking in 4-H helped me become comfortable in front of groups – in fact, it is something I still enjoy today. I think that is partly what made me choose the career of Extension/Education. My speech classes in high school and college were a breeze thanks to the background in public speaking that 4-H provided me. I am not concerned if someone asks me to “say a few words” at the last minute because I know I have the skills. The leadership skills and techniques I developed in 4-H took me around the nation as a National Officer in the Future Homemakers of America. Those skills have served me in my adult life as I sat on various boards in different officer positions during my teaching career. I currently serve on our church board because of those skills acquired through the 4-H program. I also believe it is through the confidence I developed through the 4-H program, that I am not afraid to speak my mind and be active in our community. 4-H was a place where I (the not so popular, non-athlete) could succeed and feel good about what I did. Volunteering was another aspect of the program that I still participate in today.
In my years of being a 4-H leader, I have seen the program take shy, low self-esteem children and develop them into well spoken, confident youth who will take on projects that most adults would shy away from. Recently, our county’s Junior Ambassador planned a recognition dinner for all the Emergency Service Personnel in Chouteau County. She booked the place, recruited people to decorate and help serve the meal, booked a guest speaker and caterer, solicited silent auction item, purchased supplies, and did all the planning by herself. We had another Ambassador do all the leg work to begin a paintball program in our county. He researched the requirements, solicited sponsors (12 sponsors at $160), wrote up the rules & regulations, and implemented the program. These are just two examples from thousands of community minded service projects 4-H members do in their communities all the time. All youth, especially youth at risk, have opportunities to succeed in 4-H because it provides a safe, supportive, inclusive environment where healthy relationships develop between youth and adults. Members develop life skills of decision making and leadership skills that serve them their entire lives. They have the opportunity to explore different careers they might be interested in with hands on training in the 4-H program. The organization also provides its members with the opportunity for mastery, self-determination, and seeing oneself as an active participant in the future.
The Extension Service is a valuable part of Montana’s heritage. It is through the transmission of research knowledge to the common citizen that we have the level of performance we do. Montana is still an agricultural based economy. If we want our young people to stay here and work, we can’t stop providing valuable information to them.
Please reconsider your budget recommendations to provide more support to the program that helps youth acquire life skills necessary to meet the challenges of growing up and keeps agriculture number one in Montana.