I was reading an article this weekend that appeared in the News and Observer. I must admit what caught my attention was the headline, “In Violent Robeson County, Leaders Seek Hope Through Children.”
The article summed up what we already know living in Robeson County. Statistically, this is the most violent county in the state of North Carolina, a distinction that we don’t want but always seem to have. The other focus of this article detailed a $6.5 million grant program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill targeting Robeson County middle school students — suggesting that this would address the issues of violence in this county.
As I read the article, there were several things that hit me, and I guess this boils down to one thing — there is no magic program that is going to fix this issue. That is not to say we are not appreciative of any youth program in this county geared to help youth become successful adults.
I applaud Jim Barbee, who is in charge of a program operated in Robeson County by the North Carolina Rural Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention at UNC-Chapel Hill, for trying to create a program that will make a difference. What wasn’t mentioned is Robeson already has youth development programs that make a difference in the county every day, such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, Future Farmers of America, and various church youth groups. Many of these groups have been around for more than 100 years and have helped youth stay on the straight and narrow, so let’s not discount the importance of the programs we grew up in, because they are still making a difference.
It is easy for me to point out the virtues of the 4-H program, because it is my job to point them out. In North Carolina, there are more than 200,000 4-H youth members between the ages of 5 and 18. In Robeson County alone, we have worked with more than 6,000 youths a year. Did you know that 4-H members are 50 percent less likely than non 4-H members to smoke cigarettes, shoplift, or use illegal drugs? How about the fact that 4-H members are 24 percent more likely to get involved in projects that help others or are 20 percent more likely to hold leadership positions than non 4-H members. One of my favorites is that 40 percent of 4-H alumni have completed a university degree compared with 28 percent nationwide. So if you ask me if 4-H addresses the issue of violence in Robeson County, I would say yes we do. Not by telling them not to be violent but by giving them the opportunity to practice decision making, goal setting, and communication. These skills are the building blocks to becoming successful adults who give back to their communities.
Parents, I encourage you to do your research and find a program that fits your child and encourage them to take part. No matter how many programs are out there, it is up to the parents to get their child involved and push them to stay involved. It is going to take all of us to make this change.
For information, contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center at 910-671-3276, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/. North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability. In addition, the two universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.