Published on 06/26/14

Third generation of Georgia 4-H'ers celebrate citizenship with new music

By Merritt Melancon

It was 1959 when former Georgia 4H Leader Harald Darden created a script for Georgia 4H’s annual citizenship ceremony. Little has changed about the program since then, until recently.

Former Spaulding County 4-H Club member and current counselor at Rock Eagle 4-H Center, Phillip Simmons, recently wrote an original fife and drum march as a companion piece.

“Everything that was written for this ceremony was original, written by Mr. Harald Darden, so I thought it should have its own theme. It’s own music,” Simmons said. “Traditionally they would play 'Yankee Doodle,' but I thought it needed its own music —it’s own state council march, so we could play it year after year.”

Simmons, who played piano in the Georgia 4-H performance group Clovers and Company's band before graduating from high school in 2012, is currently a junior studying music composition at Truett-McConnell College. He has played piano since he was a child, but he has learned to play several instruments since then, he said. In order to compose the “State Council Citizenship Ceremony” march, Simmons not only learned how to play the fife but actually made from a piece of PVC pipe.

He was glad to add his music to the tradition of the Citizenship Ceremony last year, and proud to present Darden, now 94, with a copy of the music this year.

The ceremony, which recognizes soon-to-be voters, is performed annually by club members at State 4-H Council at Rock Eagle 4-H Center. During the ceremony, senior 4-H members pledge to be engaged citizens, to vote and to make a difference in their communities.

“One of these days there will be folks in this room today that will be running for elected office,” Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, who spoke at the ceremony, told the students. “You are our future. You are the ones that we are relying on to take care of us as we grow old and to look after this country … Don’t be passive; be engaged. Be engaged in your communities.”

In addition to celebrating their future involvement in the democratic process, Georgia 4H’ers also spent their State 4-H Council weekend putting a little democracy into practice be electing their board of directors for the coming year.

Each county 4-H Club sends voting delegates to State 4-H Council to elect a statewide president, vice-president, two at-large state representatives and a representative from each UGA Extension district.

Ben Hancock, of Irwin County, was elected to serve as this year’s president. Matthewy Pryor, of Bartow County, will serve as vice-president. Anna Holcombe, of Hart County, and Thomas Gilbert, of Bartow County, will serve as at large representatives on the board.

Hannah Rucker, of Tift County, will represent the Southwest District; Caroline Sweat, of Johnson County, will represent the Southeast District; Sarai Mapp, of Baldwin County, will represent the Northeast District and Cody Norris, of Heard County, will represent the Northwest District.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension before joining Terry College.

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