Retired 4-H Leader Continues to Serve
Writer: Zuri Valentin, USU FCHD master's student and USU Extension intern, Cache County office
Retired 4-H Leader Continues to Serve
Leaders are central to the 4-H youth development program. Their time and dedication help 4-H youth experience learning and personal growth. For one particular leader, 4-H has become a part of who she is. Becky Mitchell has served in the 4-H program for more than 30 years. A desire to serve others and a firm belief in the impact the 4-H program has on youth have kept her serving all these years.
Mitchell’s experience with 4-H began at home.
“When my daughter was in sixth grade, she announced to me that she was going to have her own drama club,” Mitchell said. “I helped her create an official 4-H club and she led it all on her own. With minimal help, the club performed quite a few plays.”
Mitchell said one of her favorite aspects of the 4-H program is the concept that youth learn by doing. She enjoyed seeing her children learn from the 4-H projects and activities.
Mitchell later had the opportunity to be employed at the State 4-H office where she worked for many years. She helped initiate new programs and worked with youth from all over Utah as well as from other states. She was able to see the impact volunteering and giving service had on many youth.
Mitchell retired early from her position at the State 4-H office, but that was not the end of her dedication to 4-H. She said the principles of volunteering and service she taught and participated in through 4-H were ingrained in her. Two months after retiring, she and her husband traveled to China to teach English classes. While she was there, she visited an orphanage and shared her experience with her English class students. She learned that they were interested in visiting the orphanage themselves. Taking small groups at a time, Mitchell began doing service projects with the students for the orphanage.
She and her husband returned home after their teaching assignment, but were back in China within a year. Their second teaching experience in China was at a different university. The style Mitchell used to teach her classes was similar to the way 4-H clubs are organized. When a 4-H club is initiated, the leadership of the club is established and led by the youth. In a similar way, Mitchell had her students volunteer to do jobs such as conducting class and taking role.
“They all wanted to volunteer,” said Mitchell. “They had not had these opportunities before.”
Seeing their desire to volunteer and learn leadership skills, Mitchell began a 4-H club with as many students as wanted to attend. Along with teaching leadership skills, Mitchell said she also taught the students that a big part of the 4-H program is volunteering and giving service. As a club, their goal became to serve the children of rural China by improving their education. Their first project was a Christmas party fundraiser. With help from a group of professors, the club was able to find a school where they could donate funds and give of their time.
The students’ volunteer project, the sunshine project, began in 2003. The 4-H club and the project have continued each year since. One of the students, Huang Xin Yi (Amelia), was the 4-H club president for two years. She graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in English and will pursue her master’s degree in English literature at a different university in China.
The other volunteer, Zhang Yi Han (Tina), also graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in English and will continue at the same university in China to pursue a master’s degree so she can become an interpreter. Tina is the current 4-H club president. She plans to continue the sunshine project, and there are plans for the project to evolve so that individuals throughout China will be able to make donations online.
Amelia and Tina have learned much from their 4-H experience. Amelia said she learned of the importance of team work and that when working together, seemingly impossible things can be accomplished. The 4-H program has also broadened her mind with new ideas. Tina said she learned the concept of service. Though she learned as a child that helping others is important, it was through 4-H that she learned she does not need to wait for others to ask for help. Taking the initiative to serve others is important to her now.
This summer, Mitchell is exposing the two women to the 4-H program in Utah. They are amazed by the variety of 4-H activities available to children and plan to implement these ideas in China. While in Utah, they are improving their English language skills by participating in the Global Academy English emersion program.
These two volunteers illustrate the extent to which Mitchell’s efforts have exemplified the 4-H motto to make the best better. Mitchell said she believes in a quotation by Albert Schweitzer that states, “...the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
Mitchell said she has found great joy and happiness in working with other people and learning from them. 4-H has been a life-long opportunity to serve.