Shooting sports, 4-H and a brighter tomorrow

Are you one of those people that have a hard time admitting when you are wrong? I’m not, maybe because when you are wrong about something as much as I am, you get a lot of practice at it. So if like me, you thought the 4-H program was only about farms kids showing their prize cows, sheep and pigs at the state fair, well boys and girls, you were wrong.

4-H, which stands for “Head, Heart, Hands and Health,” has dozens of programs for young people, and again, that doesn’t mean just for farm kids either. 4-H empowers young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime. It’s a research-based experience that includes a mentor, a hands-on project and a meaningful leadership opportunity.

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA, and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local extension offices.

Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civilly active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. (source: www.4-H.org )

A few years ago I learned about the 4-H National Shooting Sports Program, which has disciplines in archery, muzzle loading, rifle, pistol, shotgun and hunting. My thoughts on a shooting program for young people go like this. Not every young person can, or wants to be a football or basketball star. Some of us were just not cut out for that and frankly many of us have other interests. I would also argue that a dedicated shooter is just as much an athlete as any football, basketball or baseball player.

As usual I could go on about this but I thought you might want to hear from one of the young people in the 4-H National Shooting Sports Program. Holly Waid is a high school sophomore from Greenbrier County, W.V. She is also becoming one heck of a shotgun shooter since becoming involved in the 4-H shooting program. I asked Holly to tell me about it.

“What does being a part of shooting sports mean to me? Shooting is everything to me. It is kind of my identity. I have participated in basketball, softball, marching band, but when I shoot I feel as though I have found my place. I just belong on that course. It has helped me in so many ways. It helped me blossom out of my shell, by giving me confidence in something I can be proud of and something I can do beyond my high school years. This sport has given me the confidence to become a better competitor by having the opportunity to travel to larger shoots, meet new people, make lifelong friendships and become a role model to many little girls who want to be future shooters. This sport motivates me to be the best I can be on and off the range. It drives me to keep my grades up in hopes to one day shoot for a college team. It drives me to stay focused and to continue to practice my skills even on my own to meet the goals I have set for myself. Shooting with the 4-H is the best opportunity I could have ever been given. This sport has become my future and I will forever be grateful.”

To me, Holly’s words just about say it all. Did you know that 4-H had a shooting program that could have such a positive impact on a young person? No, I didn’t either. If you have a kid at your house (or know of one) that might be interested in becoming involved with 4-H National Shooting Sports you need to call your local County Extension Office. There is one of these offices in every county in every state of the United States of America.

No doubt I have been a little down lately about what is going on in this great country of ours. Between what I heard from Holly Waid and the words of the 4-H Pledge, I think we have cause to be encouraged about the future of shooting sports, our young people, and what is still the greatest country in the whole wide world.

“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.”

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