The numbers are getting bigger for County Extension Agent and 4-H Coordinator, Frank Watson. Mr. Watson organizes everything 4-H, including summer camp and the end-of-the year banquet. The banquet, held on Saturday, April 29 at the First Baptist Church in Thomson, drew almost 200 people, with 81 students receiving awards.
"I have to tell y'all, this is one of the biggest ones we've ever had," Mr. Watson announced at the end of the banquet.
It seems large participation numbers were the norm for the 2005-06 year. In her presentation of awards during the banquet, Program Assistant Kathleen Drayton told the story of summer camp attendance. Ms. Drayton said Mr. Watson was "a little nervous" before summer camp when he learned she would be taking 70 Cloverleaf students to camp, and he would have 12 Juniors and Seniors. Ms. Drayton said in previous years, they have taken 35-40 campers.
"Can I handle it? Yes, I can. I tell (the children) 'look too good for y'all to make me look bad.' It's good for them. The kids learn to do their best," she said.
Ms. Drayton then proudly shared how McDuffie 4-H'ers won more plaques than all other participating counties in the district. McDuffie received a plaque for "outstanding participation," one for "most increased participation," and one for the "highest number of winners."
"I looked around, and I noticed that I got more plaques than anybody else. I had three. Well, I'm going to bring back four next year," Ms. Drayton said.
The annual summer camp was at Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island last June. Mr. Watson said there are 35 counties in the district, and he estimates 15 of those participated in the project competition. Cloverleaf 4-H'ers are 9 to 11-year-olds, Junior 4-H'ers are 12 to 13-year-olds and Seniors are 14 to 19-year-olds.
Three students gave presentations of their project after the banquet. Hillary McGahee, a cloverleaf, sang artist Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" a cappella. Ty Cummings, a junior, amused the audience with his speech presentation entitled "Thoughts on a Boring Sermon." Senior Amber Johnson gave a presentation on tobacco use.
"This is something that is really near and dear to my heart, because my Mom used to smoke and was diagnosed with emphysema. She is now no longer smoking and is in recovery," Amber said.
For her presentation, Amber brought household chemicals that are found in tobacco. Much to the delight of the adolescents in the audience, Amber also brought two pig lungs-one healthy, and one induced with cancer. Amber pumped air into both lungs and allowed the students to touch them, to demonstrate how the cancer debilitated the lung.
All three students received a standing ovation after each presentation.
"These presentations have been wonderful. These children have done better than most adults could do with their poise and delivery," said Dot Knox, who is on the board of the Georgia 4-H Foundation. "There's not many 4-H'ers that I've known through the years who haven't gone on to be productive people. 4-H teaches kids to be prepared for the world of work. It teaches them what to do to accomplish their goals
Following a slide show of summer camp, Mr. Watson made a presentation of the special awards. Andrew Hyman received Cloverleaf of the year, Elizabeth Ivey received Junior of the year, and Amber Johnson was Senior of the year.
"The special awards are based on their participation. It means they were the most active out of all the 4-Hers in that category for the last couple of years," he said.