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Lawmakers look back at 4-H experience as members, parents, leaders


For Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, an overnight filibuster is a lot like getting dragged around by a steer — particularly the feeling when it is over. One she has experienced as a lawmaker in Jefferson City, the other while halter training her 4-H project growing up. 

The freshman senator from northwest Missouri said the latter taught her skills she utilizes in her role representing her district. 

“At a young age, I learned you will have some failures along the way but [you can’t] give up,” O’Laughlin told The Missouri Times. “You have to try and try and try. You can’t give up. 4-H taught me that.” 

4-H is a U.S.-based youth organization which includes a variety of programs, such as robotics, computer science, livestock, cooking, photography, sewing, and much more. The program is administered by cooperative extension through more than 100 public universities.  

National 4-H Week this year draws to a close on Saturday.

Participants in 4-H are typically age five to 21. But adults act as volunteer leaders, lending their particular expertise to the next generation.

And that’s how Rep. Rusty Black got involved in the program. He and his wife helped a club for several years before taking on the main roles when the previous leader decided to take a step back.

“What I have learned as a 4-H leader is that even with the best planning it doesn’t always work out,” Black said. “And I have learned I don’t know everything.”

“I learned patience [as a leader],” said Rep. Peggy McGaugh, whose husband, children, and grandchild have been in the 4-H program. 

Sen. Dan Hegeman was a 4-H member himself and served as an officer for his club. 

“The skill I use to this day is how to run a meeting. I think learning ‘Robert’s Rules [of Order]’ and how to make a meeting efficient and effective is a skill lost on many,” Hegeman said. “I am glad 4-H still uses this method. It teaches kids the importance of running a professional and effective meeting where there is order, allowing business can be conducted in a meaningful way.”

All pointed to the program developing a wide range of skills in youth, including responsibility, leadership, communication, public speaking, confidence, and resilience among others.  

“Watching kids develop, I know there are no silver bullets to what is going on in our society. It takes a lot of different variables to try to change students’ and kids’ behavior,” Black said.

“I think [in 4-H] you learn at a young age that not everything will go your way, that you will have some failures along the way,” O’Laughlin said, adding the program has filled the gap of teaching life skills such as cooking and sewing.