(05/27/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — The East Baton Rouge 4-H Junior Leader Club has proven that doing good work in the community can be done despite the pandemic.
While attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Fest in January of 2020, Estelle Mensman, a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy, and other East Baton Rouge 4-H Junior Leader Club members learned about Line4Line, a program that helps promote literacy in youth from underserved communities.
LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Rochelle Wilking said the 4-H Tech Club and the 4-H Junior Leaders are both comprised of high school-age youth serving their community.
The 4-H Tech Club takes a technological approach to service, and the 4-H Junior Leaders are using a hands-on approach, Wilking said.
“Both groups have done amazing projects to serve their community through 4-H, and as a 4-H extension professional, I could not be more proud of these leaders,” she said.
Estelle’s mom, Danielle Mensman, said her daughter presented the idea for a book drive to her club, but then COVID-19 came and derailed that plan for a while.
“She recruited a few other members to do small book drives from friends and families that summer,” she said. “Then, in the fall of 2020, Estelle, as president of the East Baton Rouge 4-H Junior Leader Club, presented the idea to the entire club.”
The youth decided to do a large book drive at their respective schools and with the East Baton Rouge Parish Library to donate for Line4Line.
“When COVID-19 restrictions lifted some, our youth were able to help the children read at the once-a-month free haircut nights,” she said.
The young readers are offered free haircuts once a month when they read a book and do crafts and activities that encourage learning.
They also did crafts and played games with the children to help them feel loved and to increase their confidence.
“They did this throughout the school year and into this year,” Mensman said. “The club received a mini grant to help purchase craft supplies for the children and our club went shopping and made the delivery.”
The second year, they continued to work with the library to collect donations. The club also wanted to reach out and do something different for MLK Day 2022.
After discussing it with LIne4Line, they decided to do a beautification project in the parking lot. With another mini grant, they were able to buy the paint, flowers and other supplies.
The East Baton Rouge Junior Leader Club asked a former 4-H’er, Emmanuel “Boo” Milton, who is a community organizer to be interviewed on the day of service.
“Mr. Boo Milton has continued to work with community organizations to bring unity to our parish and is always eager to help youth,” Wilking said.
They worked with the 4-H Tech Club to make a video to educate people on the importance of community service and to encourage other youth to become involved, she said.
“The Tech Club set up a green screen, edited and produced a great quality video,” she said.
The group collaborated with 4-H Healthy Living to get exercise and yoga stencils to use in the parking lot at 449 N. Acadian Thruway.
They also recruited other high school students to help with the beautification project.
They painted a basketball court, a four-square area, a hopscotch area and an exercise station with the stencils, she said. They also pulled weeds and planted flowers.
“It has been a wonderful project the last two years led by the 4-H Junior Leader club,” Wilking said. “They have really come together to help another community organization to have greater impact on our community.”
The club members learned the importance of community service, collaboration and getting input from community partners, she said.
A short video of the East Baton Rouge 4-H Junior Leader Club projects can be found at this link. The video produced by East Baton Rouge 4-H club members .
East Baton Rouge Parish 4-H Tech Club members recently received recognition for their community service work. The club, which is comprised of members from middle and high school are pictured with East Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Laurie Adams; Tech Club sponsor Fran Fetzer Harvey; and LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Rochelle Wilking. Photo provided