More than 250 4-H members, their families and Cooperative Extension agents attended 4-H Day at the Capitol.

More than 250 4-H members, their families and Cooperative Extension agents attended 4-H Day at the Capitol.

COLUMBIA — More than 250 4-Hers, their family members and Clemson Cooperative Extension agents gathered at the South Carolina Statehouse to share the impact the youth development organization has on their lives.

While surrounded by a crowd adorned in 4-H green jackets and four-leaf clovers, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to recognize March 14 as 4-H Day at the Capitol.

“One big misconception about 4-H is that people think it is just about livestock and farming, but 4-H is one of the most diverse youth-development organizations today. There is a club for everyone. I would like everyone to understand how many opportunities are available through 4-H,” said 17-year-old Wilson Pressley of Spartanburg County.

Wilson Pressley of Spartanburg County addresses the crowd at 4-H Day at the Capitol.

Wilson Pressley of Spartanburg County addresses the crowd at 4-H Day at the Capitol.

Pressley, who graduates from high school this year and intends to study cybersecurity in college, first participated in 4-H at a summer science camp in 2013. He has remained active in 4-H through projects focused on leadership, public speaking and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). He now serves as vice president of the South Carolina 4-H Teen Council.

“The one thing in common for everyone in 4-H is that they all receive inspiration from 4-H,” Pressley said. “My inspiration was to keep going in really tough times in my life. 4-H has taught me to do the right thing no matter what and not to seek the recognition for it. That goes for being a better student, a better leader, a better citizen, anything.”

South Carolina 4-H, the youth development arm of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, visits the state capitol each year to expose 4-H members to the legislative process and offer an opportunity many of them have never had – the chance to tour the capitol and meet with government officials.

“And we want to show appreciation to our legislators who have invested in South Carolina 4-H by hiring more 4-H agents, allowing us to reach more youth in South Carolina. We want them to see the return on their investment,” said Meghan Wood, assistant director of South Carolina 4-H.

Attendees met with state lawmakers from their districts throughout the afternoon and attended committee hearings. Many local 4-H clubs were officially recognized in the capital galleries during meetings of the S.C. General Assembly.

S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers also spoke to 4-H members, recalling the impact 4-H had on them as youth.

S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers speaks during 4-H Day at the Capitol.

S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers speaks during 4-H Day at the Capitol.

“As a 4-H alumnus, I know first-hand the value this organization provides to youth in South Carolina,” Weathers said. “Having the members in Columbia serves as a great reminder to our legislators one of the key missions of the Department of Agriculture: to create new opportunities for this industry in the future.”

Sen. Kent Williams, D-Marion, also spoke to 4-H members during a luncheon.

Gennefer Sweatman, an 18-year-old 4-H member from Colleton County, said she appreciated the opportunity to speak to state leaders about issues that are important to her, like legislation related to state scholarships for education. Sweatman plans to attend technical college this fall and hopes to receive a bachelor’s degree in animal science or agricultural education.

“I hope our state leaders know that 4-H is truly an impactful organization,” said Sweatman, who has been involved with 4-H since she was 6. “It has an impact on so many kids’ lives throughout South Carolina, teaching them life skills, organization, time management. 4-H has really taught me a great deal of responsibility. It’s a program I hope they will always support.”

More than 92,000 young people in South Carolina participated in 4-H programing in 2015. Programs cover animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and much more.

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