Head, Heart, Hands and Health in Honey Brook The partnership of Romano 4-H Center and PSU Ext
By Rachel M. Cathell, Western Chester County Chamber of Commerce
Set off Horseshoe Pike in Honey Brook sits the Romano 4-H Center. A passerby may assume it is a barn or an agricultural business like the many that dot the landscape of our region. However, this space is a unique local asset. The center was created by multiple generations of families that saw the need for a healthy and safe space where neighbors can grow together. It is called “home” by many youths in 4-H clubs and hosts community gatherings of all types and sizes.
A dedicated group of volunteers and Board of Directors worked to make the Romano 4-H Center a reality and continue to oversee its operations today. This non-profit group maintains the grounds including an outdoor riding ring, the main building with a conference area complimented with a large open venue space. Across the way of the main building stands a large indoor facility that serves as a space and show ring for livestock, equine and other show activities. “I grew up in 4-H, I am a believer in it. I was lucky because my generation was the first to have the benefit of the Romano center. The best part now is being able to see kids continue to come out and have this space like I did” says Lew Frame, Board Member of the center.
A big partner of the Romano 4-H center is Chester County’s Penn State Extension. The Extension is an educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities. They provide life-long learning and practical knowledge to work the land, develop skills, serve the community, steward the environment, and raise healthy families. The Extension also puts the 4-H in the Romano 4-H Center and facilitates the many programs that 4-H provides through their clubs.
Audrey Reith, 4-H Extension Educator for our county says, “having the Romano 4-H center available to use by our youth and for our programs, as an educator and volunteer, it’s a relief to have that support.” Although the center and the extension are two different entities, they work hand in hand and collectively create an environment that works for the community. “It’s important to have that relationship and be comfortable in operating together,” says Audrey. 4-H programs are nationwide, but not all communities are lucky enough to have a place that acts as a supporting foundation and home for 4-H clubs to meet. “The doors are always open for us, and this creates a space of creativity and growth.”
What goes on behind the Romano 4-H Center’s doors? Foremost, the center allows 4-H clubs to meet free of charge. These clubs provide hands-on learning in agriculture, civic engagement, health, and science. Youth gather in different topic-specific clubs like STEM and robotics, textiles and cooking, veterinary and livestock science to name just a few. “We have 25 clubs across the county that meet in various places and times. There is something for everyone’s interests.” The Chesco Outdoor club navigates exploration, fishing and camping while the To Love a Canine Club teaches kids the world of rescue dogs along with hands-on care and training. Lew adds, “you don’t have to be a farmer’s kid to be a part of 4-H, there are so many different topics to try.”
What Lew is referencing, is 4-H’s long ties to the agricultural community. 4-H programs and farming have historically grown hand and hand. Today, Chester County 4-H continues to be the place for rising youth that engage in livestock programs involving beef, sheep, swine, goat, and equine clubs. The Romano 4-H Center serves as the grandstand for the kids to show their livestock at the annual 4-H fair in August where they display the culmination of their passion and hard work. The Center provides a platform for the next generation of agricultural professionals and the Penn State Extension provides the tools. Together, both organizations create an environment of continuation for youth that have interest in the county’s largest industry, agriculture.
Within the livestock and many other topic clubs, 4-H requires the kids to pick one project to focus on throughout the year. As the youth focus on the physical aspect of that project, they also pick up quite a few life lessons along the way like the four values of 4-H: Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The content of the programs mentor young people to become capable and compassionate adults. These clubs are formed in our communities, led by volunteers, and build confidence and leadership through togetherness. Audrey, being a former 4-H’er herself, explains, “4-H alumni are heavily involved in running programs today which makes it possible.” Lew and Audrey laugh and say, “we bleed green.” The dedicated volunteers are a testament to the life-long effect that 4-H clubs have on youth.
In addition to 4-H, the Romano 4-H Center also brings many outside community organizations through its doors. Lew explains, “we host everything from horse shows, dog agility trials, a Native American culture day, benefit sales and mud sales.” They welcome recurring meetings like the West Chester Grower’s meeting and agriculture workshops. “The facility has the outfit to accommodate private groups that may not otherwise have that type of space available to them, especially when in need of a larger space or to train animals or use a ring.”
The center’s big in-house event for the year is their benefit auction in September. “It’s a community effort, local 4-H’ers, community members and businesses donate items to be auctioned off.” Lew explains, “Our fundraising helps keep the center running so we can provide a safe space for community organizations to have their own events.”
As the Romano 4-H Center keeps the facility running and the Penn State Extension continues to offer its programs, the two provide access to positive youth development in our community. 4-H’er’s are four times more likely to give back to their communities, two times more likely to make healthier choices and two times more likely to participate in STEM activities. Having a place to bring it altogether, is priceless.
About the Penn State Extension
The Extension offers in-person workshops, online courses, and other resources for all ages across many topics including family and health, animals and livestock, crops, landscaping, forests and wildlife, food safety and quality, water, energy, community development and business operations. They are known for their Master Gardner Program and Watershed Steward Program that supports the outreach mission of Penn State Extension by gathering volunteers that educate the public on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship.In addition to managing 4-H programs for ages 8-18, the extension also offers the Clover Buds program for ages 5 to 8 and manage an embryology program across the county that brings in the educational content of incubating and hatching eggs right into the classroom. To learn more about Penn State Extension, Visit them at extension.psu.edu
More About 4-H and the 4-H Fair
In August, kids that have engaged in 4-H during the year come together for the big show, the 4-H fair at the Romano Center. On display and up for auction are projects, artwork and livestock completed by kids in the clubs. Ribbons of achievement are affixed to livestock and beside works of art proudly shown by the kids that raised and cared or created them. The projects are auctioned off at the fair where families and community members purchase the culmination of the kid’s hard work. Chester County 4-H also offers the next step of leadership through its Teen council where youth from 13 to 19 years old engage, lead, and impact their communities through county wide projects that build on 4-H programs, volunteerism, and civic engagement. They also could participate at the State 4-H Leadership conference. Visit facebook.com/chestercounty4H
Stay up to date with the Romano 4-H Center and discover how you can engage at facebook.com/TheRomano4HCenterofChesterCounty