CHARLESTON - The national 4-H program is celebrating its centennial anniversary as this nation's longest-serving youth development organization.
To kick off Missouri's celebration, Missouri's 4-H members gathered at the state Capitol in January for a bit of pride and pageantry. Leading the way was a color guard made up of Mississippi County 4-H members.
The color guard presented the U.S., Missouri and 4-H flags to a crowd of about 500 people in the rotunda of the state capitol. Also they led those attending in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Members of the guard are Charleston residents Robin Crook, 17, Tanisha Wallace, 18, Myron Pettigrew, 15, Trentez Lane, 16, Wykeshia Wallace, 12, and Lance Tubbs, 15. Jason Tubbs, the council advisor, also joined them.
The color guard has existed for 10 years according to Marilyn Williams, youth education assistant in Mississippi County.
The 4-H members started it as a way to honor their county, state, community and fellow members, she explained.
"This is the only 4-H color guard unit that exists in Missouri as far as we know," said Williams.
Members of the color guard are members of various 4-H clubs in the area. They must be in good standing with their 4-H clubs, have average grades at the middle school or high school they attend and keep out of trouble, said Williams.
Also members must be willing to endure weeks of practices and drills. The group is called upon to perform at club meetings, opening ceremonies and parades, some of which require three to five miles of walking.
Pettigrew first was an alternate for the performance squad and has been a full-fledge member for the past two years. While it requires a lot of work to be a member of the group, he said it is worth it.
"People have been coming up to me telling me what a great job we've done," he said. "I like that."
Jo Turner, 4-H program director at the University of Missouri, has watched the young people perform and the reactions of those around them. "When the crowd became hushed, watching these young people present the colors, it was a thrilling moment for all of us," Turner said. "These young people represent the best of Missouri 4-H today."