In 1968, 4-H provided hands-on learning opportunities in science, healthy living and citizenship to build life skills and leadership through club work and camps to youth in grades 4-13. At the request of Somerset County residents to expand the program to children in grades 2-3, Somerset County 4-H Agent, Ted Blum began working with volunteers, NJ 4-H Staff and Cook College Specialists to make it happen. This new program, a non-competitive, introductory Somerset County 4-H Program, became known as “4-H Prep”, and was designed to prepare younger children to be 4-H members.
In honor of this anniversary, the Somerset County Freeholders presented a proclamation recognizing the founding of the founding of the program and celebrating the eventual acceptance of this program throughout the state and nation.
A celebration of the fiftieth was held at the Somerset County 4-H Fair at the beginning of August in the Prep Tent and included the original Club Coordinators Grace Connor, Valerie Kreutler and Lisa Darby. All past and present members, 4-H families, leaders, volunteers and camp counselors were invited.
Hillsborough resident, Grace Connor volunteered to start the first club known as the Hillsborough 4-H Colts. Her daughter, Nancy Lynn, was the first member and with this success, Connor was hired as the first Somerset County 4-H Prep Coordinator to establish the program throughout the county by recruiting members, training advisors and camp counselors, planning events and camping experiences.
In 1978, Valerie Kreutler, resident of Bridgewater, became the second Somerset County 4-H Prep Coordinator. She built upon Connor’s solid foundation, training outside county personnel, expanding the educational activities and recruiting volunteers, many of whom continue their involvement in 4-H to this day.
In 2007, Lisa Darby, also from Bridgewater, became the current Somerset County 4-H Prep Program Coordinator, continuing high quality programming to foster self-confidence in youth and increase volunteerism.
In 2008 the national age was lowered to kindergarten and the national “4-H Prep” name became 4-H Cloverbuds. Presently, Somerset County has 107 children enrolled in the Prep/Cloverbuds program and there are 2,656 enrolled throughout New Jersey.
The 4-H Youth Development Program is part of Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station -Cooperative Extension. 4-H educational programs are offered to all youth, grades K-13, on an age-appropriate basis, without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, marital status, domestic partnership status, military service, veteran status, and any other category protected by law. Rutgers Cooperative Extension System is funded through a federal, state, and local partnership, with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture as the federal partner.
For more information about the Somerset County 4-H Program visit the 4-H website at www.4HisTOPS.org.