David Stephens of Clarinda has seen his involvement with 4-H come full circle.
Stephens joined 4-H in the fourth grade. He was a member of the Clarinda Classics and his parents, Howard and Janelle Stephens, were the club leaders. Now, Stephens is the leader of the Clarinda Classics and his daughter, Kelsey, is a member of the club.
“We joke that we bleed green because 4-H is in our blood,” Stephens said.
Initially, the Clarinda Classics was a girls’ club known as the Clarinda Pagettes. Stephens’ older sister, Traci, was a member of the club.
However, in 1990, the club converted to a coed organization when Stephens and some other boys joined the club. The club name was changed at the same time.
When she became old enough, Stephens said his younger sister, Emily, also joined the club.
“I had tagged along to the meetings and Emily also tagged along. It came naturally to us and we joined because we saw what our older siblings were doing,” Stephens said.
As a younger member of the Clarinda Classics, Stephens said he enjoyed participating in the Page County Fair and attending winter camp at Camp Aldersgate located in rural Villisca near Viking Lake. However, as he got older, Stephens became more involved in the leadership and governmental aspects of 4-H at the state and national level.
Stephens served as a member of the County Council, the Area Council and attended the state 4-H Conference. He was also selected to attend the National 4-H Congress. Stephens was one of 20 representatives from Iowa to participate in the event, which was held in Memphis, Tenn., the year he attended.
“I had to go through an interview process to be selected. As a leader, my mom coached me to help me get that award and be able to go on that trip,” Stephens said.
While in high school, Stephens was also able to attend the Citizenship Washington Focus held in Washington, D.C.
“I made friends across the state that I would see at the different events like the state fair. I also ran into a couple of them at college even though I went to school out of state,” Stephens said.
As an adult, Stephens oversaw the 4-H program in Humboldt County as the county youth coordinator. He held that position from 2007 until Aug. of 2012 when he returned to Clarinda after being hired by Iowa Western Community College as an instructor at the Clarinda Correctional Facility.
Soon after returning to Clarinda, Stephens served as an assistant club leader for the Clarinda Classics. Then, when Cheri Wittmuss stepped down as club leader, Stephens assumed the position.
“It has been very rewarding. I want to make sure what we had available to us as members is still available to the kids today. I want to make sure that tradition stays alive and continues for the new members coming up. I still see a lot of the same people that were adult leaders when I was a little kid at the county fair are still involved. That shows 4-H is kind of one big, happy family,” Stephens said.
Stephens said seeing how his parents run club meeting when he was a young member has benefited him as a leader. At the same time, they also set a great example of how to be parents of a child involved in 4-H.
“I saw all sides of the meeting from the prep work, to the actual event, to the wrap up and putting things away at the end. I was never held back. If there were opportunities to go on trips, they encouraged my siblings and me to do that,” Stephens said.
When Kelsey was installed as a new member of the Clarinda Classics, Stephens said he then realized what his parents must have felt like to see their three children get involved in 4-H.
Soon, Stephens will have a second child joining the Clarinda Classics. His son, Levi, is in first grade and is participating in the Clover Kids program. Like Stephens did at his age, Levi tags along to the club meetings and will be able to join 4-H when he reaches the fourth grade.
“They didn’t have Clover Kids when I was a kid, but it is a great stepping stone to the 4-H program. It starts to build some of the life skills they will need and introduces them to 4-H. They are surrounded by caring adults in a safe environment, so it is a way for them to belong and learn how to master some aspect of a project,” Stephens said.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.