The Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program is the largest youth organization in the country. And thanks to the support of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation and its generous donors, club members are able to pay for part of their college expenses, travel to new places across the country, participate in educational activities, develop life skills and much more.
Blayne Arthur, executive director of the Foundation, said providing scholarships to deserving club members is a big part of their efforts, but the work of the Foundation is much broader.
“Our mission is to support youth development in Oklahoma. We achieve this in a variety of ways, including private fund development to support programs, scholarships, awards and activities,” Arthur said. “We’re also charged with increasing public awareness of the many benefits of 4-H. In addition, the Foundation promotes 4-H as the youth development program of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, as well as recognizes and communicates with 4-H alumni as partners and coordinates and supports fund development for 4-H at all levels.”
The Foundation presents more than $100,000 in educational scholarships during the annual Honor Night Assembly during State 4-H Roundup, and another $50,000 throughout the year for other activities. The Foundation also provides support for national trips and funding for the more than 4,000 volunteer leaders across the state that allows them to take part in specialized training to ensure 4-H achieves its maximum reach and potential for youth.
“County educators receive support to continue to develop exciting and innovative educational programs. We’re also actively involved in the relatively new Oklahoma 4-H Music Corps, as well as many other aspects that make 4-H the wonderful organization it is,” Arthur said. “We have the Clover Classic Golf Tournament each fall. If it happens in 4-H, it’s likely the Foundation plays a supportive role somehow.”
Terry Stowers currently serves as president of the 4-H Foundation Board. He joined the board in 2011, but his family’s 4-H background goes back several generations.
“My mother was in 4-H and I was in 4-H and FFA. My wife, Annette, is a third-generation 4-H’er and she got our daughter Kylie involved,” Stowers said. “I saw first-hand with Kylie the incredible impact the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program could have on our youth and I wanted to play a role in that.”
Thanks to Stowers’ long-time friend and mentor, Rodd Moesel, Stowers not only became a donor to the 4-H program, he was instrumental in helping develop the Rule of Law Endowment.
“I’m not sure that call from Rodd went exactly as he planned. Rodd intended to ask for a $25,000 donation through the Pickens Program, but before the call was over, the idea for the Rule of Law Endowment was conceived and a few months later it became a reality,” he said. “I truly owe my involvement in 4-H to my wife, my daughter and my mentor and friend, Rodd Moesel.”
And the Stowers family continues their involvement and support of 4-H, partly due to what he calls the butterfly effect. The theory is a butterfly can flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air and could eventually be capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.
“The small things we do in our lives have a ripple effect on the lives of others around us. With hindsight, we all can think of a small decision we made in our life that ultimately changed the direction of our life or someone around us. This is exactly what the 4-H program is, and the Foundation is my family’s way of participating,” Stowers said. “I’m proud to be the president of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation at a time when we are flapping our wings hard every day. I saw what 4-H did for my daughter and I’m confident the Foundation is setting into motion many hurricanes to come.”
One former club member who has been able to ride the ripple is Steven Baringer, former 4-H’er from Murray County and currently a senior at OSU.
“The scholarships I’ve received from the 4-H Foundation have made all the difference in my college experience,” Baringer said. “If it weren’t for these scholarships, I would’ve had to go the community college route to get my basics. Being able to attend Oklahoma State all four years of my college career has been a blessing. It was especially helpful being on campus when I served as president of the State Leadership Council. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the 4-H Foundation and its very generous supporters.”
Arthur said there are some developments in the works for new funding that will provide even more opportunities for Oklahoma 4-H’ers. The Foundation worked with the Oklahoma Youth Expo, which is the largest youth livestock show in the world, to offer an OYE Skillathon competition.
“We worked together to develop testing materials and administer the event during the 10-day livestock show in Oklahoma City,” she said. “Thousands of 4-H and FFA members participate in OYE and the Skillathon provided youth one more educational opportunity for competition and scholarship dollars.”
Another opportunity for Oklahoma 4-H and FFA members, along with the OSU Center for Health Sciences, is being made possible through the estate of Audrey M. Hendershot and the Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Charitable Trust. The combined gift of $2.8 million will establish endowed scholarship funds to support future physicians who are interested in attending OSU-CHS and practicing medicine in rural Oklahoma. OSU-CHS will being awarding these new scholarships in spring 2019.
The Foundation also worked with Enel Green Power to provide funding for the 4-H Summer STEMist Program. Back for the second year this summer, former 4-H’ers who are now college students traveled across the state teaching science, technology, engineering and math at 4-H camps, 4-H club meetings, festivals, libraries, daycare centers – just about anywhere there were children. They traveled to more than 30 counties and reached over 2,000 students with this program that helps show youth how fun STEM can be.
In an effort to create even greater awareness of the county fairs that take place around the state, the Foundation also supports the #ShareYourCountyFair project through social media.
“This is a fun thing we do to promote the county fair,” Arthur said. “Most people are familiar with the livestock aspect of the fair, but this is an opportunity to showcase all of the wonderful things 4-H’ers are involved in at the fair. Counties simply upload photos to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of their club members at the county fair and use the #ShareYourCountyFair with each post.”
The county with the most posts receives $750, second place will get $500 and third place receives $250.
This past spring, about 25 4-H families were affected by the wildfires that raged through the northwest part of the state. The Oklahoma 4-H Foundation established a fund to which people could donate to help these families begin the recovery process. In just a few short weeks, the generosity of people across the country was evident as more than $66,000 was collected to help these families in need.
“We see a need or an opportunity and we work to find a way to make it happen,” Arthur said. “When you support the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation, you support opportunities for Oklahoma’s next generation of leaders.”
For more information about how you can help the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation on its quest to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to club members across the state, contact Arthur at 405-744-5390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Trisha Gedon