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Chambers County extension coordinator highlights 4-H program

VALLEY — Chambers County 4-H is more than cooking, sewing and agriculture in the classroom.

“We believe in empowering our young people,” said Rachel Snoddy at Wednesday’s Valley Kiwanis Club meeting. “They are our future. 4-H is in every state and in other countries. It’s in every county in Alabama. 4-H is the largest youth organization in the world.”

A native of Blount County and an Auburn graduate, Snoddy was a 4-H agent in Chambers County for four years before moving up to the county’s extension coordinator, succeeding the retiring Ken McMillan.

“We are in both public and private schools in the county,” she said. “We have after-school clubs, and we do service projects throughout the year. Our goal is to help make our youth college and career ready. We have really expanded with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) the last few years, and we are into shooting sports. George Chambley is helping us with our archery program. In our STEM programs, they learn about drones, rockets and robotics. They also build a hot air balloon.”

Chambers County 4-H is into traditional programs such as public speaking and building birdhouses along with a wide array of other activities.

“We cover just about anything you can think of,” she said. “Katie Hill is our regional agent, and we can always use volunteers who want to help us. “

One of the more popular programs is called river kids.

“We take them out on the water for kayaking,” Snoddy says. “Our favorite place is the river from West Point Dam to downtown West Point and Shawmut airport. The kids love doing this. We have 13 kayaks. We are always teaching water safety, and we don’t take them to dangerous spots. It’s a fun thing for them to do, especially in the summer months when they might otherwise be at home.”

Shoddy said that group outings are important.

“We want our kids to be healthy and to care about others,” Snoddy said. “We are happy to have whoever comes to join us. We have had kids participate with us who are from out of county and out of state. We go from fourth graders to seniors in high school. We have articles in local newspapers and post activities we plan to do on our Facebook page and Instagram. We are all about getting the word out about what we are doing,”

Chambers County is very active in sending youth to the 4-H state camp at Columbiana.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Snoddy said. “It takes place on three days and two nights throughout June and the first week in July. We are usually there with youth from four or five different counties. We had 13 kids to go this year, and we’d like to have 15 next year.”

The camp is for children ages 9 to 13.

“You can go for several years in a row,” Snoddy said. “There’s canoeing, a rock wall climb and a big swing everyone loves. There’s a wildlife hike. They have animals such as owls, snakes and turtles that kids can learn about.”

4-H is a U.S.-based network of youth organizations whose mission is to “engage youth to reach their full potential while advancing the field of youth development.”

Its name is a reference to “head, heart, hands and health.” In the U.S., the organization is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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