Children in the Unicoi County 4-H Homeschool Club show off a project they completed earlier this year. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The new year brings a new schedule of opportunities for the youth of Unicoi County.

UT Extension and 4-H kicked off the new year on Jan. 3 with their monthly 4-H Homeschool Club meeting at the Buffalo Conference Room in the Town of Unicoi Visitors Center. The Homeschool Club program began in Unicoi County back in October.

“Although we have always offered our programs and 4-H events to the homeschool community, we began our first official 4-H Homeschool Club in October,” Unicoi County UT Extension 4-H Agent Rachel York told The Erwin Record. “The club is still growing. We have seen as high as 10-15 students at the meetings and we would love to see this number grow.”

Meetings are scheduled for Thursday, Mar. 7, Thursday, Apr. 4, and one for Thursday, May 2. All of these meetings will be held at 2 p.m. at the Buffalo Conference Room in the Town of Unicoi Visitors Center.

“Students do not need to pre-register to attend the 4-H Homeschool Club and are welcome to join us at any point in the year,” York said.

The students who attended the Jan. 3 meeting saw first hand what the 4-H Homeschool Club is all about.

“This month, we planted succulents and learned how to care for them properly,” York said of the activities.

The 4-H Homeschool Club offers so much more than just monthly meetings.

“We also offer our traditional 4-H contests such as public speaking, poster, bread baking and photography to homeschool families through this club,” York stated.

York has been serving the Unicoi County community for roughly five years now and has a passion for serving the county.

“I have worked in Unicoi County for almost five years and I love our community here,” York said. “Just to see our youth learn and grow is always exciting.”

Serving as the 4-H agent to the area, York gets to see the impact of the program here.

“It is also exciting to see how students become more confident over the years as they become more experienced in 4-H contests and activities, and to see the skills they develop as 4-Hers truly impact their confidence in social situations, as well as their goals and resume as they apply for college, and their involvement in the community,” York said.

The impact of 4-H is widespread and has opportunities for everyone.

“We try to offer a variety of programs that appeal to different interests,” York told The Erwin Record.

Some of the programs include various judging teams. There is livestock judging, outdoor meat cookery, life skills, consumer decision making and horse judging to name a few.

“We try to offer a variety of programs that appeal to different interests, and it is my hope that the 4-H Homeschool Club will be a way to involve the homeschool community in these other project areas, as well,” York said.

Currently,v 4-H is offered to every fourth through seventh grader in Unicoi County in addition to the 4-H Homeschool Club.

“The opportunity to socialize with new friends and learn new skills in a fun environment is very valuable for the students and it is something that I strive for as a 4-H agent,” York told The Erwin Record.

York and company are busy working hard just about every day prepping for numerous events and trips on the horizon starting with the Region Horse Bowl that will take place in Knoxville.

Another big annual event coming up is the Region Clover Bowl in Knoxville on Wednesday, May 15.

It’s not only the winter and spring months that provide great opportunities for the students to grow. The summer has numerous dates for fun for the students. On June 10-14, for students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade, 4-H will hold its annual summer camp at Clyde Austin 4-H Camp in Greeneville.

To get a better idea of all the programs available for the youth of Unicoi County or to see a full schedule of upcoming events please check out the 4-H website at https://extension.tennessee.edu/Unicoi/Pages or contact York.

“Parents or youth can reach out to me directly at 735-1637 or by email at ryork@utk.edu if they have any questions about 4-H in Unicoi County,” York said.