Practice Ride at McKeever Arena in Conifer.

In our mountain community, sports are often the go-to for school age kids’ extracurricular activities. Although, 4-H continues to offer another option to learn leadership, citizenship and life skills. Six and a half million kids currently participate in 4-H groups across the country. 4-H members participate in youth focused, hands-on learning activities focused on healthy living, citizenship and science.

The four Hs in the 4-H clover stand for Head (managing, thinking), Heart (relating, caring), Hands (giving, working) and Health (being, living), and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs supported by the latest research from land-grant universities.

What is it like to participate in 4-H? Kids as young as 5 to 7 years can start as “Cloverbuds” and then continue as 4-H members as 8- to 18-year-olds. Kids first choose from the over 45 different projects to find one that interests them, and is something they are currently active in and want to learn more about, or is maybe even a potential career interest for them.

“4-H is an ideal way to meet other kids with similar interests to learn alongside!”

In our foothills area, the majority of projects at this time are horse, beef cattle, sheep, swine, rabbit, poultry, dog, cat and archery, to name a few, but if any other project is of interest to a youth, that interest can be explored and supported. The registration fee is $45, and from there costs depend on the projects, but there are no additional costs for ongoing guidance and instruction.

4-H is a youth-run organization, so it is entirely up to the members what activities their group does. Clubs focus on one or more topics and projects based upon the members’ interests. 4-H is an ideal way to meet other kids with similar interests to learn alongside! Adult volunteer leaders that are knowledgeable in different project areas help guide the youth as older youth members can take an active role in helping and teaching the younger kids. Kids often find it much more interesting to learn from the older kids they look up to, plus the older kids learn to take on leadership roles and communicate and apply the skills and knowledge they have learned, developing public speaking skills.

For example, youth participating in the horse project are mostly active during the spring, summer and fall, with some rides to practice skills, and meetings in the colder months as the weather allows. For the horse members, there are local 4-H shows to participate in English, Western, Trail and Showmanship classes. In between those shows, members meet to ride and practice the skills and patterns they will compete in at the shows. They learn about grooming, tack, horse care, equipment, nutrition, and other horse-related knowledge. There are levels that members can work through to increase their skills and knowledge.

4-H Show at Jeffco Fairgrounds.

Part of the project work is completing a project book over the year that is then reviewed, evaluated, and entered in the local county fair in the late summer. Projects can also continue to participate in the Colorado State Fair. Project books and participating in the county and state fair are not required, but are a fun way to showcase your skills, with the support of your other club members and leaders as well as learning new skills in new locations.

In the words of some of our local 4-H members, here are some of their thoughts on being in 4-H this past year:

“I have learned lots of perseverance with getting through tough days or shows but not giving up. Being able to ask for help in appropriate ways has been very helpful as well.”

“I have learned a lot about animal care. Everything from knowing if they are moving correctly, happy or sad, healthy or stressed.”

“I have learned that I really enjoy being around my animals. Spending time with different animals makes me happy because of different personalities. 4-H has helped me find what makes me really happy.”

“I think 4-H is beneficial in many ways. There are multiple opportunities and assignments that support your wishes and goals. There is always someone there to help you and you’re never alone. Not only do you join a team, but you create a family. The 4-H family is a family that doesn’t care about your differences and only wants to build you up and help you reach every goal you make. Cheering you on from the side and always pushing you to a victory.”

“You get to learn a lot about animals, responsibility, and leadership. The skills you learn here are many things you could use in the real world even if it is outside of a farm, but you learn many skills that could be vital on a farm, or that type of environment.”

“I liked being able to hang out with friends and learn leadership.”

“You will face challenges, but the leaders and members will help you get through them.”

“I learned that challenges help you grow as a person.”

“Patience and discipline are required to be successful. There are potential roadblocks to work through when you are working together with a living animal!”

“You can learn a lot from others within the program. It is fun to be around a group of like-minded friends interested in similar things. It is a great way to improve your relationship with your animal doing the practice and shows.”

Does 4-H sound like it might be a great fit for you or someone you know? Now is a great time to join and to start to explore all of the local projects offered in our area. Check out the links here for the different clubs and projects around our area in Jefferson and Park Counties. As always, reach out if I can be of any assistance! 

Heather McWilliams © 2024

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