MANHATTAN, Kan. – There is a saying – noted by many throughout history – that if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Shane Potter says the same holds true for Kansas 4-H volunteers.
“They’re helping to provide support for something they’re passionate about,” said Potter, a 4-H youth development specialist, “and they’re sharing that passion with (4-H members).”
Potter said 4-H volunteers typically get involved as club or project leaders at the local level. They often receive curriculum, training and “a whole cadre of things that will help them when they get into that volunteer role,” he said.
“That is how Kansas 4-H runs,” Potter said. “We have a great network of educators and agents across the state that support programming, but really the lifeblood of 4-H is our volunteers. Our local volunteers make a difference in the lives of youth.”
According to statistics from the Kansas 4-H program, more than 10,000 adult volunteers and professionals support nearly 70,000 Kansas youth in the program. Nationally, there are more than 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 professionals that serve about 6 million 4-H members. 4-H volunteers undergo a background check to assure a safe environment for youth.
The Kansas Association of 4-H Volunteers helps adults network with other volunteers, and provides additional training. Potter said many volunteers were 4-H members in their youth, while others are simply interested in a given topic area.
Kansas 4-H lists nearly three dozen project areas that youth participate in, each with their own set of adult volunteers.
“We are focused on creating excellent opportunities for youth,” Potter said. “We want to find that passion area for a volunteer and connect it to youth.”
A side benefit: Potter said youth often are pretty good teachers, too. A national study that looked at the motivations for why people volunteer concluded that adults not only enjoyed sharing their passion, but realized they learned something new, as well.
“Volunteering is an opportunity to not only share your skills, but sharpen the things you know and show how you really care about your community,” Potter said.
Those interested in volunteering for a local 4-H program are encouraged to visit the K-State Research and Extension office in their county. More information also is available on the website for the Kansas 4-H youth development program.
— K-State Research and Extension