4-H honors Benton County leader in youth development

March 28, 2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. - 4-H, the youth development program run by Oregon State University Extension Service, honored nine Oregonians for their work in helping Oregon's young people develop skills for life.

These nine people were inducted into the Oregon 4-H Hall of Fame, recognizing their volunteer work with young people across the state, in projects ranging from horsemanship to computer programming.

"The Oregon 4-H Hall of Fame honors individuals who have had a significant impact providing opportunities for personal growth and increasing social and technical skills to youth between kindergarten and 12th grade," said Helen Pease, OSU Extension's 4-H youth program coordinator.

A 2006 study published by Tufts University researchers concluded that 4-H clubs are among the most effective youth development organizations in the nation to develop positive influences in the lives of youth.

Focusing on five characteristics that indicate a positive response to individual and social interactions — competence, confidence, connection, character, and compassion — the Tufts study found that many community-based programs contribute to one or more of these characteristics, but only 4-H clubs contributed to all five.

OSU's 4-H programs are backed by university research and delivered by trained volunteer leaders, according to Roger Rennekamp, director of the OSU Extension 4-H program. "The programs engage youth over time, from kindergarten to college, developing in complexity as the individual grows up.

"If we are concerned about sustainable communities, we must include youth as our future citizens and leaders," he said.

The latest inductees to the 4-H Hall of Fame have encouraged a positive relationship between youth civic engagement and thriving individuals, according to Rennekamp.

For example, E.L. "Dad" Potter of Benton County was an early pioneer in Oregon agricultural education. In 1908, he became an instructor in animal husbandry at OSU, later becoming director of the animal sciences department and the first director of agricultural economics. He continued part time work at OSU well beyond his retirement in 1950, devoting his time in particular to the initial development of the Oregon 4-H Horse program.

Working to develop horsemanship skills, knowledge and communication between horse and rider, he established the E.L. "Dad" Potter Award for horsemanship in 1956. This award focuses on a broad base of knowledge and skills desirable in furthering understanding and work with horses. The highest horsemanship honor for an Oregon 4-H'er is to receive the Dad Potter Pin.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Helen Pease, Roger Rennekamp