Making a Difference

4-H Leader Dedicates Countless Hours to Teaching

Volunteer with 4-H memberIn the words of Elbert Hubbard, “The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.”

Rita Adams is a lifelong teacher. While she retired from classroom teaching a few years ago she hasn’t slowed down in her efforts to impart knowledge to youth. The teaching veteran now instructs 25 youth ranging in age from 10 to 18 in the science and art of clothing design and construction, and food preparation and nutrition.

Carolyn Ashton, Extension 4-H Youth Development faculty says, “Rita is very competent in her ability to teach, and the skills that she has to share with the 4-H members. She helps youth build social, academic, cognitive, health and vocational readiness.”  

Every week, and sometimes every day of the week, Rita opens her home to 4-H members who need personal guidance with their project work. During one of these 4-H meetings, her home becomes a school. Nearly every bedroom, the kitchen and living room are converted to a sewing laboratory. Sewing machines, cutting surfaces and ironing boards are set up strategically and youth are stationed where they can work on the next step of their project. Rita whirls around the house, teaching sewing techniques, offering a word of praise or delivering the bad news that a seam needs to be ripped out and done over.  

In addition to the practical skills she teaches, Rita also teaches youth real life skills such as communications, courtesy and responsibility. When a new person visits the 4-H club, for example, each 4-H’er greets the visitor with a smile and introduces themselves.4-H member sewing

Mylene is an 8th grader. This is Mylene’s first year in 4-H sewing project and she has already completed a small quilt and has a start on sewing her first garment. “Everyone is really nice and I am learning a lot. I am making pajamas, something I didn’t think I could ever do,” she says. “I like that I got to choose the fabric.”

Madeline, a 12th grader, is constructing a dress of orange satin, lined with a spritely print. “I will wear this dress for graduation,” says Madison, “and if it still fits, for occasions at Oregon State University.” Madeline is entering OSU next fall with plans to major in fashion merchandizing management. “4-H has inspired me to consider fashion merchandizing and the experience of clerking at county fair and seeing all the projects created by others has been a very good education,” she adds.

Even with her tiring volunteer schedule, Rita shows no sign of stopping. “Seeing the youth accomplish in their project area and helping them build their confidence and real life skills keeps me inspired,” says Rita.

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