About Us

Brief History and Programs of the Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center

The Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center was dedicated May 17, 1964, as a gift from Betsy Penn to the NCSU 4-H program in honor of her late husband Jefferson Penn. The Center’s nearly 200 acres of fields, forests, lakes, and streams were given to the citizens of North Carolina by Betsy Penn, who built the facility and then donated it to North Carolina 4-H in 1964.

The Outdoor Retreat and Education facility are located near Reidsville, NC in Rockingham County. The Center is proud to provide research-based educational experiences that help develop and promote the life skills necessary for youth to become productive members of society. The facility provides a wide variety of Piedmont ecosystems and wildlife. Wetlands, streams, forests, and a 22-acre lake provide opportunities for the study of aquatic biology, water quality, and forest ecology and wildlife habitats. Youth also learn and experience the lifestyle of early pioneer settlers, and Native American heritage.

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The Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center is operated through North Carolina State University and the College of Agriculture and Life Science. The Betsy Jeff Penn (BJP) 4-H Center’s mission is to provide youth with opportunities to develop life skills using the experiential learning model. The Center has three primary delivery modes for accomplishing its goals.

1) Our Summer Camp Programs have been operating in North Carolina since 1964. Tens of thousands of campers have enjoyed the benefits of a summer camp experience at Penn. Our residential camp offers programs for campers ages 8 – 14, along with a Leader-in-Training program for youth ages 15-17 and our Cloverbud camp for kids ages 5-8. A weekly Day Camp is also available for local youth in the Reidsville NC area.

2) Our Educational Field Trips for Schools in North Carolina and Virginia have been operating since the early 1990’s. Thousands of school children have experienced hands-on opportunities to enhance their school’s curriculum. Three different programs are available:

Soaring Thru Spaces Program utilizes group initiatives, team challenge course elements (low ropes), high ropes course elements, and focused discussions to increase the life skills and self-efficacy of each student. This program is ideal for grades 5 through adult.


O.R.I.E.N.T Project: Outdoor Research in Environment, Navigation, and Technology address the shortage of high-quality, engaging outdoor math and science programs for middle school students.


The Environmental Education Program provides students in 2nd – 6th grades with outdoor, environmental science and cultural history. Teachers choose from over 20 hands-on, experiential education classes that allow students to be immersed in the subject areas to an extent just not possible in the traditional classroom.

3) Our Outdoor Retreat Center in NC also provides a tranquil setting for conferences and retreats for a variety of user groups. We offer team building programs for adults and corporate groups in our high ropes courses and other facilities.  Lodging, meeting space and healthy meals are provided.

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