On February 22, Franklin County 4-H members, parents, and UF IFAS Franklin County director and office manager joined over 800 of Florida’s 200,000 4-H members in Tallahassee for the annual 4-H Day at the Capitol.

The purpose of the visit was to give 4-Hers and their families the opportunity to educate members of the Florida Legislature about the effect 4-H participation has on the lives of Floridians, with particular emphasis on the impact of the 4-H and families in the areas of healthy living and nutrition as well as workforce preparation through 4-H programs.

For example, in the past five years, over half a million Florida youth have participated in some form of obesity prevention, nutrition education program, or vegetable garden project. In Franklin County, examples of these programs include a school garden at Franklin County High School and the Family Nutrition Program taught by Mrs. Kayle Mears, program assistant, in all Franklin County schools

4-H faculty members have provided age-appropriate, learn-by-doing educational opportunities and workforce preparedness programs for thousands of Florida youth. In Franklin, students have the opportunity to participate in the Tropicana Public Speaking Speech Competition, 4H Chick-Chain, attend Leadership Camps, make friends at Teen Retreat, become District III board members, Learn about Government and Legislature at the State Capitol, attend 4H Day at the Capitol and 4H Legislature in Tallahassee, become camp counselors, attend 4H University at the University of Florida, and become judges at the North Florida Fair.

The Franklin County delegation began their day in the Capitol courtyard with hundreds of 4-H families from all over Florida. 4-H State legislators Matt Caldwell and Denise Grimsley greeted the assembled group, addressing a sea of people clad in 4-H green with our members starting the masses off in singing, cheering and dancing.

The children then gathered on the steps of the historic Old Capitol building to take a group photo before dispersing to meet with legislators and tours that included the R.A. Gray Museum of Florida History, the Governor’s Mansion, the Old Capitol, and the IMAX Theater on Kleman Plaza.

Franklin students enjoyed spending time walking through Florida history in the R.A. Gray Museum and touring the 22nd floor of the State Capitol with its panoramic views. Students marveled over the sweeping vista and identified familiar landmarks from the vantage point of their bird’s eye view.

Thanks to the hospitality of the Florida House of Representatives sergeant’s office and the organizational skills of Wakulla’s 4-H Club Leader Becton Roddenberry, 4-H members from Wakulla and Franklin counties were able to spend an hour sitting in legislators’ seats on the House Chamber floor.

The students learned about the legislative process with emphasis on how a bill becomes a law followed by an interactive mock session. A lively debate on how to provide services to Florida’s homeless population followed while the 4-H students learned how difficult it is to gather the votes needed to pass legislation that ultimately becomes state law.

After exiting the House Chamber, the combined Wakulla and Franklin 4-H delegation happened upon U.S. Senator Bill Nelson answering questions during an impromptu press conference. Nelson greeted 4-Hers and posed for a photo.

The day concluded with a history-focused scavenger hunt in the Old Capitol museum where students competed against one another to find the most answers in the shortest time possible about Florida’s early government leaders.