A 4-H Testimonial: At All Stages of Life, Forests and the Outdoors Hold Treasures You Can’t Find Elsewhere

Posted: October 30, 2020 at 12:03 p.m.

by Guy A. Holley, Bertie County 4-H Agent

As an adult, I have become connected to the outdoors in a different way than I did when I was a child, a teenager, and even a college student.

When I was younger, the outdoors only meant a place to play and burn energy (so my brother and I didn’t drive our parents crazy) and a place of labor (pulling weeds out of the flower beds for my mom or doing some yard work for father).

As my brother and I grew into our early teen years, we found the treasures in the sizable forest behind our house. Our play evolved to building forts from fallen trees or trees that we were able to bend, and labeling sections of the forest based on the makeup of the land. My brother and I learned about different terrain through participation in 4-H programs connected to our state park, Merchants Millpond. When I moved away from rural Gates County in eastern North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina A&T State University, a more urban area, I still found myself taking time to visit the forest when I needed a break from the busyness of school, social activities and working. Walking through naturally developed and well-maintained trails, I began to connect to the peace that the natural environment can bring.

After my college years, at about the age of 25, I not only used the walks through the forest as mini-retreats, but I began to make correlations to life and wonder about the science of this magnificent ecosystem. I can recall learning about deciduous trees and how their leaves begin to change color just before they fall to ground, in a science class. But it took me quite some time to really grasp the complex chemistry that happens to cause this reaction. The revelation that one tiny acorn has the potential to produce an infinite number of oak trees left me in awe at these creations.

I get to pass forward my love for the environment and introduce youth to methods to preserve this resource and provoke their thinking on creative ways that they can protect, enjoy and profit from it.

With an even greater admiration for this natural environment that I believe was created for us to use, preserve, profit from and enjoy, I found myself taking intentional action learn more about it.

Remembering from the 4-H experiences that I had as a youth and the programs and projects we worked on to preserve the environment; I began to implement the lessons and teach my wife and two daughters about this beautiful place we are to steward.

In my current role as 4-H Agent for Bertie County, I get to pass forward my love for the environment and introduce youth to methods to preserve this resource and provoke their thinking on creative ways that they can protect, enjoy and profit from it. Though my knowledge still isn’t all I’d like it to be, as a 4-H agent, I have access to research-based curriculum and interactive programs that can be shared to allow youth to gain education and participate in mind-opening activities and programs.

4-H provides an opportunity for all to participate in programs and opportunities that will help facilitate the curiosity your child may have. By getting connected to your local 4-H program, you – as a parent, caregiver, or person who wants to give back to youth – can gain access to facilitator guides that aid you in growing a youth’s interest to leading him or her to a full-blown career. I did not know of the amazing career opportunities that existed in the world of natural resource management until I explored them. As we face the challenges of climate change and our growing population, it is up to us now and in the future to implement changes that will allow us to preserve this planet. Two of the many programs in 4-H that help teach and foster creative thinking around these issues are the Forestry and Wildlife Habitat Education Program.

There is an even greater need for minorities to participate in these programs so that they can learn and potentially have a career in natural resource management. Each culture and ethnicity represented at the table can bring a greater perspective and approach to help not only solve these issues but others as well. To underscore what I stated previously, 4-H provides opportunity for all, and It is the duty of each 4-H agent to create an environment where diversity is celebrated, not tolerated, and where all youth in their county can have access to equal participation in county, district, state and national opportunities.

Similar to the acorn having the potential to create an infinite number of oak trees, every youth has the potential to create infinite greatness. Let 4-H help foster the potential that lies within your child, as it has for me and millions of other people around the world.