Recently, my 4-H Club held its Handing Over Ceremony to honor its past officers and induct the new ones. It was a brief ceremony and I kept it simple—it was the Friday of Sports Week, and I managed to secure a sliver of time between the morning footraces and the Friday prayers observed by Muslim students. I read off each position and the old officer was presented with a certificate and shook hands with their successor. The new officers then lined up at the front of the room and recited a pledge that I had written up myself pulling from some club resources and handbooks.
As I began to deliver some closing remarks to the outgoing officer team, I was struck by the realization that I wouldn’t be around to see most of the work of the new officers. “I hope that in one, two or three years, you can come back to Buipe Senior High School,” I said to the old officers, “and see the growth and progress that has taken place within the club.” The words echoed in my head. While I helped lay the groundwork, the success of the club will be determined by the sustained effort of the students and staff members of the school.
It was a little emotional to send off my first officer team. They took the opportunity to lead a brand new club with no reputation or solid foundation. The other clubs in the school are religious or tribal in nature, two things which are deeply ingrained into Ghanaian culture. I was thankful for their willingness to step outside the norm and contribute. They set an excellent example for the incoming officers which will hopefully result in greater strides in leadership and club achievements.
As my time remaining in Buipe is now less than three months, I’m reminded of my AgriCorps training back in Oklahoma. We were taught the four values of an AgriCorps Fellow: wonder, courage, commitment and trust. Each value reflects a stage of our service, and I am now entering the “trust stage.” Everything I have done and will do until I leave requires trust in my students, fellow teachers and community members. As I continue to strive for regular club meetings, a rabbit rearing project and the leadership development of my students, I have to trust that when the time comes, others will take on responsibility and carry the momentum into the following months and years.
I don’t know what the future holds for the Buipe Senior High School 4-H Club. What I do know is that I have a core of motivated, energetic students and a great co-advisor who can see the value of the club, both now and down the road. Maybe the club will develop a school garden, or host public speaking competitions—the possibilities are truly endless. As I watched the old officers hand over to the new, I remembered that the day will soon be coming that I will also be handing over my works to those who have worked alongside me. On that day, I predict that I will be handing over with a sense of pride, hope for the future and a healthy dose of trust.
Mark Rippke is a Horticulture graduate from Iowa State University. Before becoming an AgriCorps Fellow Mark served on Iowa’s 4-H State Council.