Demario Brody-Harris isn’t what most people would consider a typical “4-H kid,” but he can talk for hours about his love for the organization and how it is helping him prepare to reach his long term goals. Brody-Harris, a local high school junior, is passionate about 4-H’s emphasis on civic engagement. He is an enthusiastic participant in 4-H Legislature, a program hosted by Florida 4-H in Tallahassee every June.
Students from across Florida plan and run a mock state legislative session where each student plays the role of a state representative, state senator, lobbyist, or member of the news media. All parts of the event take place in the Capitol building, in the Florida House and Senate chambers. Brody-Harris’s goals include pursuing a career in the U.S. Air Force, followed by running for Congress and eventually running for President. He has attended 4-H Legislature twice.
In 2017 he was a lobbyist, and in 2018 he was a state representative. He appreciates the timeliness and relevance of the bills the students propose, as well as the authenticity of experiencing the entire state legislative process. For the 5 days of the mock legislative session, students are immersed in a way that promotes true understanding of how state laws are passed. According to Brody-Harris, “Because of my strong interest in government, I’ve attended several different hands-on programs that teach about the legislative process.
Florida 4-H Legislature is without a doubt the best one I’ve seen. It teaches one topic – Florida’s state government – thoroughly and with complete participation in the process.” In 2018, five Collier County 4-H members attended Florida 4-H Legislature: Brody-Harris, as well as Bess Granholm, Gen Granholm, Quinn Silic, and Alyssa Martinez. Every Collier attendee did an outstanding job, and Quinn Silic received the Chris Allen Award for “Most Outstanding Senator.”
People who haven’t been involved in 4-H recently are usually quite surprised by today’s 4-H programs and participants. According to Collier County 4-H Extension Agent Tish Roland, “4-H is everything it was, but more. Students have more options in 4-H today than ever before.” More than 7600 young people in Collier County participate in 4-H every year. They may be members of traditional 4-H clubs, after school programs, in-school enrichment programs, special interest programs, or extended learning opportunities (summer camps, 4-H Legislature, 4-H University at the University of Florida, and others).
Even though the traditional clubs are still run the same way they always were, with students choosing a topic and pursuing their interests under the supervision of a club leader, the number of topics the clubs can choose from has expanded dramatically. Clubs may still focus on raising livestock, gardening, sewing, cooking, bee-keeping, and other traditional 4-H activities, but students also frequently learn drone operation, computer programming, and other science and technology related topics.
The largest 4-H initiative in Collier County is an in-school robotics program for all 5th graders in the Collier County Public School District. Many Collier County 4-H programs are possible because of the work of the Collier County 4-H Association. The Association is a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to raise funds that provide financial support for Collier County 4-H.
The Association raises money to help Collier County 4-H because its members believe 4-H enriches the lives of Collier County youth by offering educational opportunities that focus on civic engagement, leadership, healthy living, and science.