Seniors in 4-HJun 01, 2020 02:01PM ● By Melanie Wiseman
Mentors pledge head, heart, hands and health to young changemakers
Head. Heart. Hands. Health. These words have molded millions of young people into community leaders and changemakers since 1902.
Practical, hands-on learning is at the core of 4-H, a youth development and mentoring organization promoting a world where youth and adults learn, grow and work together as catalysts for positive change.
With generational gaps never more present, Western Slope seniors are taking on greater roles in helping 4-H youth make a positive impact in their communities and the world.
The 4 H's
Head - Managing, Thinking
Heart - Relating, Caring
Hands - Giving, Working
Health - Being, Living
The 4-H Pledge
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
Learn by doing
Boasting networks of more than 25 million alumni and 540,000 mentoring volunteers, youth in 4-H receive abundant support from older generations. Mentors foster positive values through citizenship and healthy living. Youth also learn and practice real skills related to agriculture, craftsmanship, science and technology.
Housed under Colorado State University Extension, Tri River Area 4-H encompasses chapters in Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties. “Learn by doing” is the 4-H motto, and with hundreds of volunteers and youth working together on the Western Slope, there’s plenty of “doing” going on.
“We have over 100 active volunteers in Delta County alone, and the majority of our leaders are seniors over 50,” said Tri-River 4-H agent Jackie Shea.
One of them is Teresa Burns, a senior volunteer leader in Delta County.
“Kids are my passion,” said Burns, 61. “I love getting to know them, and watching them grow and succeed.”
Burns was active in Dolores County 4-H as a kid, and she started a vocational agriculture program in Hotchkiss in 1981.
Even in retirement, she has continued to participate in many 4-H roles. She remarked, “I don’t know what I haven’t done.”
In addition to serving on the local 4-H board for 32 years, Burns has been a livestock judge and woodworking instructor, and teaches equestrian and livestock-showing skills. She said the fair is just the end of a long-committed process.
“The satisfaction of making a difference in young people makes me dive in deeper,” she said.
In 2007, Burns was recognized for her hard work and dedication to 4-H when she was inducted into the Colorado Association of Fairs and Shows Hall of Fame.
A family legacy
A 4-H leader for 24 years, Bill Hunt’s involvement in the organization began with his three children.
“I'm happy to be part of something so grounded with good ethics and morals,” said Hunt, 61. “It’s especially important today…to be part of an organization whose mission is to create good sound kids and future leaders in our community.”
Hunt has enjoyed helping youth on a variety of projects and directing them toward community service opportunities. While he didn’t grow up in 4-H, Hunt said he could’ve benefited from the self-confidence that kids gain from their demonstrations and presentations.
Despite his youngest child set to “age out” soon, Hunt will continue volunteering for 4-H.
“I have grandchildren who will be starting in just a few years, so why stop now?” said Hunt. “It' so rewarding to be a mentor and see the kids improve and advance over time.”
Developing life skills
Brandon Creamer, 4-H program associate for Montrose and Ouray counties, values the mentors who helped create memorable experiences when he was a youth in 4-H.
“I welcome senior volunteers and recognize the value in sharing their knowledge and passions,” said Creamer.
He considers them to be great assets, and encourages them to use their expertise in workshops and other activities.
Jean Seymour, 55, can’t say enough good things about her experience as a youth in 4-H, as an equestrian and 4-H state-level leader. She even met her husband at a 4-H convention.
“All four of our kids have followed suit by being active in 4-H,” said Seymour. “They are now fifth generation Olathe farmers.”
Additionally, all of Seymour’s children completed college degrees debt-free with help from 4-H scholarships.
She enjoys organizing interstate exchange programs, which she said are great ways for kids to learn about different cultures. Each year, they either host youth from a different state or travel to visit them.
“It’s not hard to share your knowledge and talents,” said Seymour. “I’m in it for the kids and feel it would be a great loss if I left and took my knowledge with me. You get what you give.”
For more information about rewarding volunteer opportunities with 4-H, contact your county's extension office.
Delta County 874-2194
Montrose & Ouray Counties
249-3935Know a volunteer you'd recommend? Nominate them for our 2020 BeaconFest Volunteer of the year!