Senator Casey at 4-H meeting

Senator Bob Casey listens as 4-H member Ben Pifer tells him how 4-H has provided him with opportunities he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

BROOKVILLE — Visiting Brookville Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey met with members from various levels of the 4-H program to talk about the value of the program.

Those meeting with Casey ranged from an assistant director from Penn State to some of the children currently in the program. The focus of the discussion was the importance of investing in children, and how the 4-H program does that.

“Know that both the Penn State Extension, and specifically 4-H, we want to be a resource to you…,” said Dr. Brent Hales, Penn State assistant director.

Penn State Extension is a statewide program that works to extend the knowledge of the university into the communities around the state. 4-H is a program integral to that effort that offers agriculture education and much more. Hales described the program as the first class that many take at Penn State, though the public often doesn’t see it that way. 4-H gives students the opportunity to take classes and gain knowledge, and provides the university with a way to gather feedback.

Hales said the program is very adaptable to whatever young people are interested in and what they want to learn. This has allowed 4-H to reach out to urban communities as well as well as those in suburban and rural areas.

Joshua Rice, the assistant director of the 4-H program referred to the children enrolled in “Health Rocks” a 4-H healthy living program in Philadelphia. This is still part of 4-H, but in an urban setting with topics geared toward those children.

Some of the primary project areas on which 4-H focuses are animal science, environmental science, healthy living, leadership, expressive art, civic engagement, and camping, giving the more urban settings projects areas that might be more applicable to youth living there.

Casey returned to the urban-rural delineation later, saying rural and urban counties around the state have more in common than some might realize.

“The opioid crisis is everywhere, it’s not just in cities or small towns, it’s even in suburban communities. As much as we’re divided sometimes on a lot of issues, a lot of these problems are common to both communities,” Casey said.

Casey expressed surprise at learning some of the families involved with 4-H went as far back as six generations.

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Two members of the Jefferson County 4-H program told Casey about their experiences in the program.

The first was Mackenzi Kanouff, who talked about working on landscape art and participating in other projects.

The other member was Ben Pifer, a junior in high school who has been part of the dairy program for many years. His family owns a dairy farm, and also leases cows to children who want to participate in the program but don’t have access to cows. He has participated in a wide variety of other programs through 4-H, including poultry, goats, cooking, the vet book, and many others. He is the secretary of the local club this year.

The 4-H programs have enabled him to be on the Quiz Bowl team, and have given him the opportunity to travel to several different states to compete in tournaments.

“I think you see here two prime examples of young people that are preparing themselves for the next generation of workforce. That true broad development that 4-h provides, the skills and broader opportunity that they might not have had, traveling, learning those leadership skills… just general life skills. Those are the type of things that 4-H in general teaches,” Hales said.

“This meeting was a good education on how important the extension programs are in 4-H in developing better citizens and developing folks who understand they’re part of a community,” Casey said.

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