Liberty Hill 4-H opens doors for students

By Dana Delgado

For generations, participating in 4-H has been a rite of passage.

It was just that way for Liberty Hill resident Kelly James when she was growing up in Wood County, Texas and competing in public speaking at a local 4-H Club.

“It helped open avenues to leadership and helped me gain a sense of responsibility and knowledge,” said Ms. James. “It helped me see projects from start to finish and changed me from being shy to being more outgoing and becoming a leader.”

Benefiting from the expansive, national 4-H network, Ms.  James says her participation opened doors to college by helping her get scholarships. So inspired and motivated, she earned two bachelor degrees from Texas A&M University, one in Animal Science and the other in Agricultural Education.

“Now as a parent and volunteer, I’m taking my kids all over the state and seeing my former professors who are running the curriculum and helping kids go to college,” Ms. James said. “4-H is so family-oriented because it builds relationships not just with families but between organizations and colleges.”

Her children started participating at age 8 in the Clover Kid Program and then began competing at age 9. They, along with numerous others, have been actively competing in various events throughout the state representing the Liberty Hill 4-H Club.

In photography, Kendal James took top honors in several categories at the county level including micro, elements of design and nature.   At district level, Kendal was named first in elements of design, first in nature and Best of Show.

At the Williamson County Livestock Show, Liberty Hill 4-H members had a commendable showing. Colton O’dell Jr. won Showmanship with broilers, Rayanne Adair was first with cross and Lauren Hagemann received two 1st place ribbons in the youth fair. Cody Anderson placed 7th in Duroc class, 7th Gilt show and Reserve Showmanship Gilt Show.  Kendal James finished 7th in Lambs and was named Grand Champion in Photography.  Caitlin Kagland also participated with her rabbits.

At the Huntsville Prospect Show, Lauren Hagemann was 6th with her goats.  In Clifton, Tristan Brooks and Heather Smith participated in archery.  Heather Smith, competing in archery and light rifle, placed 3rd in light rifle in a March Madness competition and won 1st at Clifton.

With his Beefmaster heifer, Sterling James finished 6th of 15 at the Star of Texas Rodeo and placed 10th out of 17 at the Fort Worth Livestock Show and Rodeo to win a $4,000 scholarship. His main sponsors were Bill and Jeanne O’Connor of Azle.

At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Luke Hoysa and Mickey Hoysa represented the Liberty Hill 4-H Club well. Luke Hoysa captured three first place class wins and was in the top three in Americans for Breed for cavies.  Meanwhile, Mickey Hoysa won four first place class wins and two Best of breed for cavies.

For Caitlynn O’dell, Horse Judging has been her competitive interest.

“These kids go above and beyond with their projects since it is done outside of school,” said Ms. James.

The Texas 4-H Program was started around 1908 by T.M. (Tom) Marks, Jacks County Agricultural Agent. He organized the first boys “corn club” in Jack County after discovering that youth were more eager to learn new production technology than adults.  Within a span of four years, “pig clubs,” “beef calf clubs” (Coleman County, 1910) and girls “tomato clubs” (Milam County, 1912) were also initiated. The Smith-Lever Act in 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA and nationalized 4-H. By 1924, 4-H clubs were officially formed and the clover emblem was adopted.

While many suspected that an agrarian-based program would become obsolete as towns grew and became more urbanized and a new era of technology and education evolved during the latter part of the 20th Century, a decline or demise of 4-H clubs did not occur.

The organization paused only long enough to reflect on its future before reinventing itself to keep pace with the new complex world but stood behind the idea that youth is the single strongest catalyst for change. Today 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization reaching over 7 million youth in communities of all sizes.

With a university-backed curriculum, 4-H is dedicated to helping cultivate the next generation of leaders and tackling the nation’s top challenges, from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety. 4-H out-of-school programming, in-school enrichment programs, clubs and camps also offer a wide variety of STEM opportunities – from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, environmental protection and computer science.

A decade-long research study conducted at Tufts University confirmed the common belief of the benefits of the 4-H program under the Cooperative Extension System.  The report shows that 4-H youth excel beyond their peers. Among the bulleted findings, researchers noted that 4-H participants are four times more likely to make contributions to their communities (Grades 7-12); two times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time (Grades 10 – 12); and two times more likely to be civically active (Grades 8-12).

The Cooperative Extension System is a partnership of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the 109 land-grant universities and more than 3,000 county offices across the nation. Cooperative Extension combines the expertise and resources of federal, state, and local governments and is designed to meet the need for research, knowledge and educational programs.

Current adult officers of the Liberty Hill 4-H Club are Mr. and Mrs. Woolery, President; Heather Smith, Vice-President; Sterling James, Secretary; Courtney Jordan, Treasurer; Colton Jordan, Parliamentarian; and Danielle Terby, County Council Delegate.

Individuals ages 8-18 are invited to join the Liberty Hill 4-H Club.  The local club meets on the second Sunday of the month at the VFW Hall at 5:30 p.m.

For more details email libertyhill4hclub@gmail.com  Information on the state 4-H Program is available at www.texas4-h.tamu.edu/learn.