What started out as a marketing campaign last summer has turned into a rally cry for Georgia 4-H. Students, 4-H alumni and staff working with the program are now declaring “I am Georgia 4-H” with bumper stickers, T-shirts and floods of comments on the 4-H Facebook page.
A group of high school students who make up the Georgia 4-H Youth Technology Leadership Team came up with the idea. They are in charge of making videos about Georgia 4-H.
“We started thinking ‘let’s do I am Georgia 4-H’, and it spread from there,” said Cheryl Varnadoe, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H and youth specialist.
Varnadoe, who is a part of the technology team, said they were surprised at how people responded to the new slogan. “We thought it would be big, and we thought a lot of people would think it was catchy, but we’re just amazed at how big it’s become,” she said. “We’re pleased everybody likes it, and everybody’s getting into it.”
Georgia 4-H is the youth outreach arm of UGA Cooperative Extension. In 2010, more than 156,000 students participated in Georgia 4-H programs. Besides projects and competitions, members go to camps and events all over the state and nation.
The “I am Georgia 4-H” project began as a web document where people could go and submit their stories. Now the concept has its own Facebook page ( 001F www.facebook.com/iamga4h?ref=ts 4152 ) with close to 1,500 fans and hundreds of stories.
It also has its own website at iamga4h.org.
Varnadoe grew up in Georgia 4-H. For her, it’s more than a job. “It’s my lifeblood,” she said. “It’s everything to me, and I’m just looking forward to being a 4-H mom. My son is seven, and he’s ready to be a 4-H’er.”
Georgia 4-H will celebrate National 4-H Week Oct. 3-9 by continuing its “I am Georgia 4-H” theme. Counties across the state are having special events and contests to celebrate the week.
“We’re really reconnecting with people through this campaign,” Varnadoe said. “I feel like we’re in so much better shape. People have really realized how much 4-H meant to them and what a difference 4-H made and has continued to make in their lives.”
Ultimately, she hopes that this project will prompt more people to help out with their local 4-H programs, either with their time or money.
“This project comes at a crucial time in Extension when we need people’s help,” Varnadoe said. “We need more volunteers.”
(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)