HARTSVILLE — A South Carolina 4-H Club that helped at-risk youth in Hartsville live healthier earned the Student Club and Organization Service Project of the Year from the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics.

The club was formed by junior Morgan McManus, an active 4-Her from Florence who was part of a 4-H team that placed second in a national healthy-cooking contest last year.

Each week, McManus and her 4-H colleagues visited 20 to 40 grade school-aged children at the Boys and Girls Club of Hartsville to play athletic games, exercise, teach food nutrition and share healthy snack ideas and recipes.

Morgan McManus

Morgan McManus

“I feel like we got to make a really good impact on these kids. A lot of them don’t come from great home lives and they don’t do so well in school,” McManus said. “They started to come up and hug us each week and they really started to respect us and enjoy seeing us and that is what I really like about it. I really like working with young youth because I feel like that’s really where you can make an impact.”

One week the group made the children smoothies and another week apple and cheese quesadillas. They played Frisbee and other games and taught the children to bowl with a tennis ball and pins made of water bottles filled with rocks.

“They had to run down the tennis ball each time, so they got a lot of exercise but had a lot of fun doing it,” McManus said.

4-H members taught the children how to check their heart rates before and after exercise, as well.

Joining McManus in the 4-H club were fellow Governor’s School juniors Emelee Guest, Faith Emetu, Amber Hazzard, Jaden Yam and Maddie Tedrick and senior Paige Swanson.

The team was mentored by Leigh Walker, a senior Extension 4-H agent in Darlington County. Funding for food and supplies was available through a grant from the 4-H Youth Voice, Youth Choice program.

“I helped them obtain the supplies, but Morgan really managed everything on this project. She really took charge,” Walker said.

The Governor’s School 4-H club is already planning a service project for next year. McManus said they plan to make drawstring bags of toiletries to distribute at a local homeless shelter.

The Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics started its Student Leadership, Organization and Service Awards program last year to reward and acknowledge students for the work they do within their clubs and organizations and within the community. Students and clubs are nominated for the awards by faculty and staff.

4-H member Morgan McManus prepares a dish during a 4-H Healthy Lifestyles Fitness Challenge.

4-H member Morgan McManus prepares a dish during a 4-H Healthy Lifestyles Fitness Challenge.

“I think this award highlighted 4-H at the Governor’s School for Science and Math for people who didn’t know what it was,” McManus said. “I already have had more people come to me and say they’d like to join. I have grown up in 4-H, so I have seen how impactful it can be. It has changed me as a person. It has helped me challenge myself and not be afraid of failure.”

South Carolina 4-H is the youth-development arm of Clemson University Cooperative Extension. Hands-on learning opportunities in a variety of subjects help instill confidence and teach leadership skills to young people. Programming covers animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and much more.

A 4-H Club is an organized group of youth, led by an adult, with a planned program that is carried on throughout all or most of the year. 4-H clubs may meet in any location and typically have elected officers and a set of rules approved by the membership to govern the club.

South Carolina 4-H has a variety of clubs throughout the state for children ages 5-19 and the organization encourages communities to start new clubs, as well. Many 4-H clubs are led by volunteers. If interested in forming a 4-H club, contact your county 4-H agent.