Collegiate 4-H gains interest on university campus

UWEC students lead new 4-H chapter and are in search of new members

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

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“I didn’t know that 4-H wasn’t a thing at UW-Eau Claire yet, but I knew that it should be,” Blue said.

Jordan Blue, a second-year elementary and special education student, has been a part of 4-H since he was in 3rd grade and says after spending 11 years with the organization, he knows its pledge by heart.

“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,” the pledge goes.

This is the same pledge the 4-H organization on the UW-Eau Claire campus shares with its growing members.  

4-H is a national program and America’s largest youth organization with around 6 million members.  

The Eau Claire County 4-H chapter says, “4-H is a youth organization of boys and girls, grades K-13, sharing, doing and learning together in all kinds of projects and activities. Members choose projects that fit their personal interests and the places where they live.” 

Blue said 4-H is focused primarily on supporting youth organizations while also providing them opportunities to grow in leadership and in skill-based areas.

“4-H revolves around giving back to your community, supporting them the best that you can, as well as empowering youth to succeed and serve in project-based learning,” Blue said. “We also help to enhance youth learning and provide them with resources.”

Twyla Alix, a first-year organizational communications student, has been participating in 4-H for 11 years, following in her mother’s footsteps. 

“We have a really strong 4-H community where I’m from — I got so many great opportunities throughout high school,” Alix said. “I’ve become really passionate about making sure other kids get those same chances like I did.”

Since graduating from high school and consequently aging out of the program, Blue said he was dedicated to continuing his 4-H experience at UW-Eau Claire. 

“I didn’t know that 4-H wasn’t a thing here yet, but I knew that it should be,” Blue said. 

So, he took the initiative and started UW-Eau Claire’s collegiate 4-H chapter last year. The chapter became official in the spring of 2020.

Since then, Blue has taken the role as the president of the collegiate chapter at UW-Eau Claire, he said. 

Alix is the secretary of the club, though she said they do collaborative work as a cohesive executive team. 

Collegiate 4-H, Blue said, is a little different than the high school level. It’s about supporting the adult-youth partnerships. It also involves providing additional support and introducing more leadership opportunities. 

But, Blue said things haven’t been easy. 

“The pandemic has definitely thrown many hardships our way,” Blue said. “A lot of the recruitment process revolves around in-person activities, so it’s been difficult to gain members.”

Despite the pandemic, Blue says the collegiate club is trying its best to carry on. 

“We have a collaboration with the Eau Claire County 4-H program and are trying to build more with other programs,” Blue said. “Right now, we’re focused on providing more youth-adult partnerships. Allowing youths to get an understanding of what college is through their projects,”

When members graduate out of the program their freshman year of college, it’s harder to bring them back to 4-H, Blue said. 

Past members can return as volunteers when they’re older: at 18, they can supervise programs and activities, 21 years being the minimum for overnight experiences. But, those few years away from the program are sometimes enough to distance them, Blue said. 

“A lot of college kids don’t choose this option because college is a lot. I was really involved with it before, so I thought this would be a great way to help bridge the gap between graduating from the youth program and becoming an adult volunteer,” Blue said. 

Blue said he hopes the collegiate 4-H chapter will allow students to continue the development started in 4-H, practice their leadership and help youth develop their leadership styles. 

Similarly, Alix said she has many younger siblings still participating in 4-H. It is one of the many reasons she chooses to continue her work with 4-H. 

Before starting UW-Eau Claire’s chapter, Blue said he did extensive research on other collegiate 4-H programs in Wisconsin. Thank 

“In Wisconsin, there are only chapters in Madison, Green Bay, Oshkosh — and now in Eau Claire,” Blue said. “What’s interesting about these other chapters, though, is how different they all are. It shows how much the activities of the group depend on its members.” 

UW-Eau Claire’s chapter is dedicated to leading workshops and providing leadership training for youth in Eau Claire County, but also throughout the state. Additionally, they do community service and are looking to connect with other student organizations, Blue said. 

“Specifically in Wisconsin, it’s really important for students to get involved because it’s a way to implement diversity and bridge the gap between students going to college or not, which is important,” Blue said. 

The collegiate club is diverse in multiple ways, according to Alix. 

“One of my favorite aspects of collegiate 4-H is hearing all the experiences people have had that have brought us all together,” Alix said. “We are a diverse group, with members from all kinds of majors and backgrounds. We complement each other well.” 

In more traditional years, when in-person interactions were safe, 4-H youths would be able to come to campus and see it for themselves. 

Through their projects and learning, they are developing passions and callings. Combining that experience with putting them on campus is a way for them to get excited about going to college, Blue said. 

“We hope that we can do a visit where 4-H youths and organizations come and visit campus for a weekend,” Blue said. “That, of course, would depend on our ability to grow our membership, so at the moment, we’re focusing on supporting the 4-H program overall.” 

Looking to the future, the collegiate club is focusing on building partnerships with other student organizations, strengthening the collegiate 4-H momentum Wisconsin is seeing, prioritizing adult-youth partnerships and growing their numbers and participation, Blue said. 

“For us to be able to accomplish a lot, we have to have a lot more of us to be more effective. But for now, we are doing what we can with the numbers we do have,” Blue said. 

Those interested in joining Eau Claire’s collegiate chapter can email them at [email protected] and by liking and following their Facebook and Instagram (@collegiate4huwec) accounts. 

Alix said the skills learned through 4-H can be applied to people’s professional life no matter the career. She attributes her public speaking abilities to 4-H and said she is eager to continue progressing. 

They have a virtual meeting coming up at 7 p.m. on April 5. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.  

Both Alix and Blue said they encourage anyone interested to take the leap and attend a meeting. She said it is a great chance to experience the environment and see if anyone might be interested in coming back.

“You don’t need to have 4-H experience before joining — it’s for everyone,” Blue said. “It’s to allow adults in college to continue supporting youth in our community.” 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected].