January 18, 2021

Helping Kids Shine: MaxYield Makes 4-H Affordable in Dickinson County and Beyond

Chad Meyer, Karen Schwaller, Hannah Brockshus

Where can you still get a great return on a $10 investment? Dickinson County 4-H. While the annual enrollment fee is $30 per youth, MaxYield Cooperative is pleased to contribute $10 per child, lowering enrollment to $20, to help offset the cost so kids can participate in the new Lakes Area Youth Bass Club, robotics club, shooting sports club and traditional 4-H programs.

“Last year we had 186 kids in 4-H in Dickinson County, and we’re still growing,” said Hannah Brockshus, county youth coordinator for Dickinson County. “We focus on goal setting, team building, leadership, community service and helping kids find ways to shine.”

The economic diversity in the youth of the area makes MaxYield’s financial support invaluable, Brockshus added. In the local schools, for example, Dickinson County has a free and reduced lunch rate of 42 percent. “MaxYield’s contributions also give us the opportunity to expand our reach to help kids reach their fullest potential. MaxYield’s support definitely helps the families with multiple kids in 4-H,” Brockshus said.

MaxYield pays a portion of 4-H dues in Dickinson, Emmet, Clay, Palo Alto, Kossuth, Hancock and Wright Counties. “We want to make 4-H affordable for families,” said Chad Meyer, client relations/ communications with MaxYield. “Paying a portion of each 4-H member’s enrollment fee also reflects MaxYield’s mission to support area youth and every member enrolled in 4-H.”

Alison Bueltel, a nine-year member of the Superior Lakers 4-H Club, has enjoyed showing beef cattle through 4-H and helping younger 4-H members learn how to exhibit their animals. The 2017 graduate of Spirit Lake High School plans to attend Iowa State University to major in animal science and ag business. “I have career aspirations in the fields of livestock nutrition and genetics,” said Bueltel, the 2016 Dickinson County Fair Queen. “I encourage all kids to try 4-H because it offers such a great opportunity to meet new people, try new things and develop skills you’ll use throughout your life.”

Empowering people, growing lives

Each fall, Dickinson County hosts an open house at the Extension office to help the community learn about 4-H and invite new members. Dickinson County boasts ten 4-H clubs, including the Lakes Area Youth Bass Club, which started in the spring of 2017. Led by Shane Kendall of Great Lakes Marine, the new club aims to partner volunteers, professional anglers and members of the Iowa State University fishing team with youth to enrich learning experiences on fishing and conservation.

Each Dickinson County 4-H club offers a unique culture of its own, said Brockshus, who noted that Dickinson County celebrated 100 years of Iowa State University Extension in the county in 2016. Kelsey Peck, president of the Hook ‘Em Cook ‘Em 4-H Club, enjoys showing rabbits, entering baked goods and displaying photography projects at the county fair and Clay County Fair.

“I’ve learned communication skills, leadership skills and sportsmanship,” said Peck, whose mother, Kristi, leads the club. “I’ve developed many friendships through 4-H that Mom says will last a lifetime.”

4-H creates leaders

Dedicated volunteers support 4-H’s mission to help students learn by doing, noted Brockshus, who offers a training program for 4-H volunteers. For the past 13 years, Karen Schwaller has led the Milford Pioneers 4-H Club.

“This year we have a record 50 club members,” said Schwaller, who leads the club with her husband, Dave, and co-leader Mary Weaver. “We have to meet in a large public gathering space these days because we no longer fit in people’s living rooms.”

Club members completed 21 service projects last year alone. “We try to model the importance of helping others,” Schwaller said. “Members of our 4-H family become part of something larger than themselves through community service.”

The club’s “Random Acts of Kindness” committee looks for people in need and suggests ways to get involved. Last year, a committee of girls from the Milford Pioneers renovated a large doll house and donated it to the Centers Against Abuse & Sexual Assault (CAASA) in Estherville. “This citizenship project helped our 4-Hers learn how to approach businesses to ask for donations, stick with a job that takes a little time and discover the joy of helping others,” Schwaller said.

Milford Pioneers members also coordinate Ag Day, an agricultural-related educational afternoon to help third graders at Okoboji Elementary School learn where their food comes from. “All these 4-H projects turn good kids into amazing kids who have servant hearts and hands,” said Schwaller, who is grateful for MaxYield’s financial support of 4-H. “4-H creates leaders, and it’s amazing to be part of this growth process.”

Essential Elements Enrich the 4-H Experience

4-H emphasizes the importance of positive youth-adult relationships to help kids excel. “Some of the kids we serve have adverse childhood experiences outside of 4-H,” said Hannah Brockshus, county youth coordinator for Dickinson County. “Positive role models offer one of the best ways to help kids develop skills for resilience and stress management.”

4-H offers:

  • Caring adults who serve as advisors, coaches and mentors
  • A safe environment that encourages learning
  • An inclusive setting that fosters a sense of belonging
  • Service to others
  • Opportunities to build knowledge, skills and friendships

4-H also helps young people thrive. Dr. Richard Lerner, a youth development scholar and researcher at Tufts University, has found that:

  • 4-H youth make healthier choices. Young people in 4-H have significantly lower alcohol, drug and cigarette use than their peers. They are also 2.3 times more likely to exercise and be physically active.
  • 4-Hers excel in school and the sciences. Young people in 4-H report better grades and are nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college. 4-Hers (including girls) are also more likely to pursue careers in science, engineering or computer technology.
  • 4-Hers are committed to improving their communities. 4-H youth are 3.4 times more likely to contribute to their communities, compared to youth who don’t participate in 4-H.





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