As the new East Feliciana Parish Assistant Extension Agent, Leanna Cupit’s job is to educate people about what 4-H means and does.

Cupit, who began her new job Dec. 1, says even though it’s well into the school year, it doesn’t matter, because there are plenty of remaining 4-H activities, clubs and events for members to participate in.

“It’s not too late. I’m on a mission to recruit as many 4-H members and volunteers as possible,” Cupit said. “In order to do that, I need community stakeholders, parents, businesses, business owners and organizations to get on board.”

Cupit said she believes education about 4-H is lacking and people don’t understand or know why they need to support the program.

According to research findings from a Tufts University study titled “4-H Study of Positive Youth Development,” 4-H youth, when compared to their non-4-H peers, were nearly four times more likely to contribute to their communities; twice as likely to pursue healthful behaviors; and two times more likely to engage in science, technology, engineering and math during nonschool hours.

Cupit’s goal is to educate the public, not just students, even if it means passing out information at the Clinton and Jackson community markets on the weekends, which she plans to do with 4-H members. She is even making a pitch to area 4-H alumni to get involved.

As a former science and agriculture teacher in East and West Feliciana schools for five years before taking on the role of 4-H agent with the LSU AgCenter, Cupit believes there is a common misconception that 4-H is just about livestock shows and agriculture.

“It’s about so much more than that. The 4-H program builds leadership and plays a vital role in youth development, helping to mold children and teens by providing positive participation in a variety of programs,” Cupit said.

Louisiana’s 4-H program has more than 225,000 participants, and the LSU Agricultural Center helps to develop educational programs that are interactive and attractive to youth.

Those programs have included promoting literacy among young children who may not have access to books; engaging in community service and service learning; exploring Louisiana wetlands; engaging in character development initiatives; getting involved in ATV safety; entering exhibits in AgMagic at the state fair; learning life skills through the 4-H Textile and Apparel Education Program; attending financial boot camp; entering the Great American Seafood Cook-off: 4-H Edition; and engaging in the 4-H Smart Bodies, Fit4theFuture or Live Your Financial Experience programs, to name a few.

Cupit hopes to make these programs and others known to East Feliciana youth by explaining the opportunities available to them by participating in 4-H camps with focuses on nutrition; citizenship; community development; science, engineering and technology; dramatic arts; food, health and nutrition; and outdoor adventures.

East Feliciana 4-H, West Feliciana 4-H and Future Farmers of America youth will unite for the annual Feliciana 4-H and FFA Mini-Farm on Jan. 16 and Livestock Show on Jan. 17 at the West Feliciana Parish Sports Park Barn in St. Francisville.

In the spring, 4-H camp will be available for East Feliciana 4-H members in fourth through the sixth grades, Cupit said.

Another opportunity is 4-H University, a three-day event for local teens that provides competitive events as well as short-term and in-depth educational opportunities at LSU.

Cupit said contests and project clubs are part of 4-H University, and members could win scholarships and trips.

“If we’re looking at what makes a kid successful in school, it’s not just getting good grades but social interaction over the course of their entire academic careers,” Cupit said. “The 4-H clubs act as a complement to the development of the whole child, so that’s the push. That’s what we, myself and the other agents in East and West Feliciana, aim to do.” Project clubs are also a big part of 4-H, and Cupit is starting a sewing club Jan. 26 for ages 9 to 19.

Club meetings, for now, will be held once a month after school from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the LSU AgCenter’s Idlewild station in Clinton.

Sewing basics and parts of a sewing machine will be learned, and the club will work from there, Cupit says.

Cupit also is pushing to get a cooking club started but needs a kitchen complete with counter space, oven, stove and refrigeration to conduct club meetings because Idlewild doesn’t have a working kitchen.

“This is where businesses and business owners or volunteers and organizations can help out,” Cupit said. “Someone out there has a kitchen or space to allow us to use for a 4-H cooking club. What are their needs and interests of area youth, how can 4-H best serve these kids and how can we as a community help out?”

Currently, there is an active 4-H Club for home-schooled students, and 4-H enrollment is open to youth in public and private schools. Anyone age 9 through the 12th grade can join for a $5 membership fee. Applications can be obtained from Cupit at the LSU AgCenter’s Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station office at 4419 Idlewild Road in Clinton. Cupit also will be visiting East Feliciana schools in January to enroll students.

For information, contact Cupit and East Feliciana Parish 4-H at (225) 683-3101 or email lcupit@agcenter.lsu.edu. Also learn more by visiting East Feliciana Parish 4-H on Facebook or @EastFeliciana4H on Twitter.