Staying Active: 4-H involvement, activities more than just week-long commitment for county youngsters


There’s a lot more to 4-H than what people see the week of the county fair.

In Jackson County, members can join one of 36 community clubs that meet year-round or start a SPARK Club based on their interests.

They also have opportunities in the summer to go beyond the county’s borders and expand their horizons at fun, educational events.

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And it’s not just about animals. 4-H also explores other interests to help direct youth toward a career. The nearly 800 4-H’ers in the county can choose from more than 70 projects offered through 4-H.

“A lot of people recognize us because of the fair and the projects, but the kids do go to club meetings all year-round, and then these trip opportunities really prepare them for their future,” said Heather VonDielingen, Jackson County 4-H youth development educator.

“I would say it truly prepares you to enter the real world,” she said. “We do all of this project work, but they are learning life skills throughout that — teamwork, responsibility, time management, communication skills. I think the life skills they are taught in 4-H really carry them into their future.”

VonDielingen recently accompanied local youth at 4-H Camp and 4-H Roundup at Purdue University in West Lafayette. Other students also went to 4-H Academy, 4-H Band and Indiana 4-H Entrepreneurship Academy.

4-H Camp

Dakota Bieber, Cody Burnside and Angel Poole attended the three-day 4-H Camp, while Cassidy Burnside, Alison Deaton, Kaelen Eglen and Sydney Wiesehan served as counselors.

Each counselor worked with 14 kids of a variety of ages, and activities revolved around a Western theme. The campers could choose from a variety of classes to take.

Dakota said one she took was trailblazing science, while Angel’s classes included photography, crafts, painting and geocaching.

Both attended camp for the first time.

“I wanted to go because I wanted to see what’s all there,” said Angel, 12, a seventh-grader at Seymour Middle School. “It was fun, and it was amazing.”

Dakota, 9, a fifth-grader, said this also is her first year in 4-H. She said she would go back to camp in the future.

“Because it’s fun, and I probably would get to see all of the friends I made,” she said.

Camp also was a new experience for Kaelen and Alison. They had to go through an application process and be interviewed by VonDielingen and another educator to get selected as counselors.

Both went to Purdue before campers arrived to get familiar with their responsibilities.

Kaelen, 16, a junior at Seymour High School, said she liked meeting different people and making new friends.

“I gained more leadership skills, and I gained how to interact with different personalities and how to make sure everyone is included,” she said. “I worked with the younger kids, and then I also worked with the older kids. It was just one fun, big experience because everyone was including.”

Alison, 17, a senior at Brownstown Central High School, said she liked the interaction between the campers and counselors, who were from the eight surrounding counties.

“I took away a lot of leadership skills that I didn’t have in the past, and it allowed me to see different opportunities and be able to just grow within myself,” she said.

4-H Roundup

Seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders are eligible to participate in 4-H Roundup.

The three-day conference consists of sessions led by nationally known speakers, mock college classes and opportunities for fellowship with 4-H’ers from all over Indiana. It’s more focused on career paths.

Jackson County 4-H’ers attending were Marina Flandes-Soto, Citlally Ramirez, Roman Ramirez, Valeria Ramirez, Amelita Vasquez, Kirsten Raisor, Anna Benter and Cassidy Burnside.

Citlally, 14, a freshman at Seymour High School and first-year 4-H’er, said she liked going to classes and touring the Purdue campus.

Her classes included team-building, food dye and measuring your heartbeat. She said the latter one was beneficial because she’s considering becoming an athletic trainer.

“I learned how to make more friends, and I can use that with my business or something like that with communicating,” she said.

Kirsten, 13, an eighth-grader at Brownstown Central Middle School, said she wanted to go to 4-H Roundup to learn leadership skills that would help her in the future.

“I want to be a physician, but I don’t know what specialty yet I want to get into,” she said. “I took one nursing class, and you learned about blood pressure and how to take it.”

VonDielingen said one of her favorite parts of 4-H Roundup was the networking event at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Indiana 4-H Foundation board of directors invited about 50 alumni to talk about career paths.

“The youth attending Roundup actually got to go up and talk to leaders from Beck’s and Eli Lilly,” she said. “Not most seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders get the opportunity to do a networking event like that, so this trip truly prepares them for their future.”

Kirsten said she would encourage others to attend 4-H Roundup if they get a chance.

“I would recommend it to people because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you can meet new people,” she said. “4-H, you have that in common, and it’s just a good experience.”

Indiana 4-H Entrepreneurship Academy

With the Indiana 4-H Entrepreneurship Academy, high-schoolers spent three days experiencing Purdue, interacting with faculty and staff, hearing from entrepreneurs and learning about useful business resources.

Michael Claycamp, 15, a Seymour High School sophomore, said he had to write an essay as part of the application process. He then went to Purdue by himself and was paired with a partner from Guatemala.

Together, they developed a presentation about aquaponics greenhouses.

After presenting for the Indiana 4-H Foundation board of directors, Tom McKinney, the brother of Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Ted McKinney, offered them an opportunity to run his aquaponics greenhouse business in Tipton.

Michael said he didn’t expect that to happen.

“Going to this, I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually run a business myself,” he said. “I’m only 15, and I have someone wanting me to run a business for them.”

Michael and his partner also will give their presentation to business owners and professors Oct. 14 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Winners will be announced at a dinner that is attended by 500 people.

“I recommend it for anyone that wants to go into anything business,” Michael said of the academy.

Other 4-H events

Also this summer, Kara Rice and Sydney Wiesehan went to 4-H Academy, and William Rodenbeck attended 4-H Band.

4-H Academy allows high-schoolers to attend workshops in animal science, citizenship, food science and nutrition, healthy living, natural resources, plant science, financial management, journalism and communication and science, technology, engineering and math.

Kara attended food science and nutrition, while Sydney went to plant science.

The band workshop is for eighth- through 12th-graders. William was among the band that played at 4-H Roundup.

Also, Sydney was one of 10 delegates from Indiana selected to attend National 4-H Congress from Nov. 24 to 28 in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a premier leadership development conference for youth, who are selected through an application and interview process.

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For information about Jackson County 4-H, call Purdue Extension Jackson County at 812-358-6101 or email Heather VonDielingen at [email protected].


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