CLEMSON — The largest and oldest youth development program in the nation is calling on alumni and supporters to raise their hands to help bring 4-H to 10 million youth by 2025.

For more than 100 years, the 4-H impact on young people in America has been undeniable. Currently, 4-H empowers nearly six million young people in every county across the country, including 104,000 4-H’ers in South Carolina.

“Having experienced our programs firsthand, our alumni know best what a positive impact 4-H had on them growing up, which is why we’re reaching out to them to support the next generation of true leaders,” said Pam Ardern, state 4-H program leader.

As part of the Raise Your Hand campaign, which runs through May 15, 4-H is asking its supporters in South Carolina to help kids by providing the hands-on learning that only 4-H provides. As it seeks to identify its many alumni and supporters, 4-H is asking that alumni go to and register.

The South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program uses a learn-by-doing approach, the involvement of caring adults and the knowledge and resources of Clemson University and the land-grant university system to empower youth to become healthy, productive and contributing members of society.

Clemson Cooperative Extension has proactively expanded 4-H programming and hired more 4-H agents throughout the state as part of a five-year strategic plan focused on strengthening communities.

One example of that expanded programming is the 4-H Pinckney Leadership Conference, which annually brings high school sophomores and juniors from across South Carolina to Clemson’s campus each summer to participate in numerous activities designed to promote teamwork, leadership and citizenship.

The conference is named for the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed June 17, 2015, along with eight fellow churchgoers during a Bible study group meeting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Pinckney was a strong advocate of the 4-H program and recipient of the 4-H Distinguished Alumni Medallion from the National 4-H Council.

Pinckney Leadership Program students on State House steps

Members of the Clementa Pinckney Leadership Program pose on the State House steps on March 13 in Columbia. The 4-H Clementa Pinckney Leadership Conference is held annually on Clemson University’s campus and is aimed at helping participants in understanding various leadership styles.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

In March, more than 425 4-Hers, family members and Clemson Cooperative Extension agents made the trip to the South Carolina State House for South Carolina 4-H Legislative Day. Among them was Nakel Pinckney, the cousin of the late senator and a high school senior from Jasper County who was introduced to 4-H through the Pinckney Leadership Conference.

“4-H is family,” Nakel said. “4-H has helped to prepare me for the future. 4-H has helped me to meet a lot of my new friends and helped me to do things that I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do in Jasper County. It really has prepared me for the future and just to face the challenges that life brings.”

With the support of nearly 4,000 volunteers across the state, participation in 4-H increased by 12 percent last year in South Carolina after seeing growth of nearly 10 percent a year earlier.

“Whether they’re running Fortune 100 companies, performing to sold-out crowds, leading community programs or volunteering to empower local youth, 4-H alumni are the epitome of true leadership,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council. “Our alumni and supporters across the country now have the perfect opportunity to support 4-H youth in their communities, ensuring that the next generation has the opportunity to benefit from the 4-H experience.”

While staying true to its agricultural roots, 4-H has expanded its programs in South Carolina to empower the state’s youth in a broad variety of other areas such as animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and more.

“4-H gives kids the opportunity to learn by doing, to grow from not only the encouragements brought by success, but also through challenges and failures, as these skills will help them to handle whatever life may throw their way,” said Jennifer Nettles, Grammy-award winning musician, actress and 4-H national alumni spokesperson.