4-H youth spend week with city, county, local businesses

ALEXANDER CAIN:::

If 4-H member Ashley Hodo ever had any doubts about wanting to become a criminal prosecutor after she graduates high school in five years, a recent trip to the Spalding County Courthouse put her doubts to rest.

Hodo and at least 14 other 4-H youth spent a full week visiting different businesses, city and county officials and locations around Griffin and Spalding County, including the Spalding County Courthouse, where the 4-Hers participated in a mock judicial trial inside one of the courtrooms.

“Going to the courthouse I got a feeling of the environment I might be in. It was kind of cool, seeing how they work and the processes that they have to follow,” Hodo said.

That’s exactly the idea behind the Youth in Governance program, which put them inside the courthouse and the other locations. The program, coordinated out of The University of Georgia’s Spalding County Extension Office, has been taking place each year for at least seven years, according to Cherry Hovatter with the Spalding County Extension Office.

“It’s a leadership program where we take some aspects of the Citizens Government Academy and the Griffin-Spalding Leadership Program,” Hovatter explained. “The purpose is to learn about the county government and show the different aspects of the community and how it all works together. These are things that they can and will be able to do as citizens.”

Locations visited during the week by the group included businesses such as Safe House Coffee and Bandag; government offices and institutions such as the Spalding County Courthouse, the Spalding County Correctional Institution, the Griffin Fire Station and the Griffin Police Department and supporting businesses and institutions such as Spalding Regional Hospital and The University of Georgia, Griffin Campus.

“We started out at the County Commissioners and the County Manager to get an overview of what is in government,” Hovatter said. “The group contains 4-H members from all over the county ranging in ages from 13 – 16.”

Thirteen-year-old Isabella Rutledge left the Griffin Fire Station with a better understanding and stronger impression of what it takes to do the job of a fire fighter in Griffin and Spalding County each day.

“We learned about respect, because when you go to the fire station, you learn that it is a tough job. They dedicate their lives to protect the lives of others,” Rutledge said.

Such lessons are what the 4-H organization and the Extension office are hoping the participants take with them into their homes and schools, according to Hovatter.

“It makes them realize that it’s not just a job that you can go to on an eight-to-five basis,” Hovatter said.

Miranda Amerine, 13, recalled her visit to Safehouse Coffee Roasters on Hill Street where Safehouse representatives took the group through a brief tour on the bean-brewing process.

“The people that have their own businesses, you see how much work that they put into them,” Amerine said. “Me and some of the other 4-Hers want to have our own businesses one day.

For County Manager William Wilson, who first met the 4-Hers on the first day during a mock Commission Meeting, seeing the youth becoming more interested in their community made for a positive outlook for the future.

“We had some great kids this year and they were very inquisitive. They asked a lot of questions. These kids are asking questions way above their age levels. They seemed to really want to participate and seemed to really have fun,” Wilson said. Ω

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