“4-H is about family, tradition, and passing the legacy of leadership, hard work and skills on to the next generation,” says Cassie Anderson, extension educator for 4-H youth development for the Ohio State University (OSU) Extension Office in Hancock County.
Anderson grew up on a cattle farm in Auglaize County, Ohio, where her family has been involved in 4-H for generations. As a child, she completed a variety of projects, among them raising sheep, cattle and hogs, sewing and completing leadership projects. “My roots are in 4-H from a traditional sense,” she says.
Finding Her Path
Anderson aspired to one day become a veterinarian, but after arriving at college, she discovered she loved education and programming as much as she hated organic chemistry. After completing an internship with a local extension office, she knew the path she wanted to take with her career.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and life science from the University of Findlay, and completed graduate studies in human and community resource development at the Ohio State University. After graduating, Anderson worked for the Boy Scouts before ultimately taking her current position leading Hancock County’s 4-H program.
Serving the county’s youth
Within the county, there are currently 875 kids involved in 4-H. Kids ages 5 through 19 can participate in 4-H through community clubs, Cloverbuds, and shooting sports programs.
Cloverbuds, geared toward children ages 5-8, offers activity-based, family-oriented programs that are non-competitive. Members participate in activities like day camps. Recently, the Hancock County Cloverbuds experienced a K-9 Unit demo, field trips to One Energy, the Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation and a trip to a pumpkin patch.
After Cloverbuds, older children can participate in the competitive program, which starts in the third grade. These community clubs go above and beyond what the community sees at the Hancock County Fair. They are designed to be youth-driven. Participants elect their own officers and run their own program with the assistance of advisers who support and guide. Students do community service, participate in leadership opportunities, embark on field trips and teach their peers.
Each participant selects one or more projects early in the year. The projects can be in virtually any area of interest, from the more traditional areas of 4-H like agriculture, animal raising and gardening, to non-traditional like robotics, kitchen chemistry, or photography. There are 200+ projects that students can get involved in. The students diligently work on their projects throughout the year, and then display their projects at the Hancock County Fair for judging.
Teaching lifelong skills
4-H is family-oriented and heavily focused on relationships, says Anderson. It’s also accessible to anyone. While some 4-H projects are more costly or time consuming than others, each project is a choice that the student makes with their family.
“In 4-H, you learn how to do something, you proactively do it, then you teach it to someone else,” says Anderson. “It’s a full circle of learning and it teaches lifelong skills and the importance of giving back.”
Anderson’s work at the OSU extension reaches 1,500+ local students who aren’t in 4-H. The extension office provides enrichment programs to local schools, covering topics that are highly practical like financial literacy, local history, STEM, and learning about the source of their food.
For more information about the Hancock County OSU Extension office, visit hancock.osu.edu
Q&A with Cassie Anderson
What do you love about your work? I’m in the business of growing great kids, that’s really what motivates me. Seeing kids who are super shy and then are teaching classes a few years down the road, or seeing kids earn a scholarship or be recognized for their efforts—knowing I had a role in that is really awesome.
What does the future hold for Hancock County 4-H? We are in the midst of restructuring and expanding our school enrichment program. Also, a new program we just started is 4-H Buddies. We pair up kids who need accommodations or have special needs with mentors 12 years and older to empower all youth to have a 4-H experience.
How can the community get involved? Within the 4-H community clubs, there’s always opportunities for volunteering, especially if you have a special skill set. The volunteer selection process starts in the early fall, so contact us then.