RIDGWAY – The 4-H program is growing in Elk County, according to Natalie Aiello, 4-H educator for the Elk & Cameron counties Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Aiello presented at Tuesday’s Elk County commissioners meeting, saying that while the groups in Elk and Cameron counties are small compared to other areas across the state their numbers are continuing increase.

In the past year, Elk County saw 188 organized club members and the formation of a new club at Windfall Farms. Cameron County had 75 organized club members.

Aiello said the two leaders at Windfall Farms expected 15 to sign up and doubled that expectation.

“It’s a big improvement but not where it needs to be,” Aiello added.

One of the biggest hurdles is to holding these programs is having the volunteers to help run them.

Aiello said that volunteer growth is also steady but could always be improved.

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Currently, Elk County has six organized 4-H clubs. Aiello said when she assumed her position eight years ago there was only one club in the county.

Aiello helps to administer those organized clubs, as well as afterschool programs, school enrichment, and summer camps.

“Everything Penn State does and all of the research they share. My job is to share it with the youth,” Aiello said.

A 2003 study of 4-H alumni showed that club membership improved responsibility, confidence, leadership, project and presentation skills.

Members also learned to handle competition, feel more at ease in relating to new people and developed good sportsmanship skills.

“There’s still a lot of kids out there we can pull into these programs and give the opportunity to grow in these special ways,” Aiello added.

Looking to the future, Aiello said she is hoping to start a cooking club and robotics club in Ridgway in the next year.

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