4-H is about so much more than cows.
That's the message that 4-H Youth Development Agent Jay Whaley is hoping to remind children and teens about as the 4-H open enrollment continues through the end of February.
4-H activities, including shooting sports, sewing, photography and dog obedience, give children a chance to explore and learn.
"4-H is a great way for youth and adults to interact together and make decisions that empower kids to feel successful and important in our communities," Whaley said.
Last year, there were 13 community clubs in the county, Whaley said. All 4-H members commit to being a part of a community club, which means attending a monthly meeting and helping with a service project.
Members also pursue individual projects, which typically involve additional meetings.
Projects cover a range of topic areas, including plant and animal science, mechanical sciences and leisure education.
Last year, 249 members completed a project, compared with 219 members five years earlier, Whaley said. Also, 91 adult volunteers were involved.
One of the most popular projects is shooting sports, which involved more than 60 youths last year, Whaley said. The focus of that project is to teach youth safety. Youths can focus on air rifle, .22-caliber, shotgun and archery skills.
Sewing always is a popular project, culminating with a modeling show at the end of the year in which each member models his or her handmade outfit.
Photography teaches children to take digital and regular photographs, letting them advance to learn about focus adjusting, darkroom techniques and making videos.
Through veterinarian science, participants spend one afternoon a week for a few months with a local veterinarian completing hands-on projects such as dissection. One former 4-H participant who completed the program was accepted to veterinarian school as a freshman in college, Whaley said.
4-H now offers a GPS project, in which participants learn the technology through mapping weeds. Leather craft, cake decorating and entomology also are popular projects, Whaley said.
In all the projects, the goal is to help children learn life skills, as well as how to become good leaders and citizens.
"We always say we're here to make blue-ribbon kids, not blue-ribbon projects," Whaley said.
The group has a significant scholarship program and has awarded $104,000 in scholarships during the past 10 years.
Youths can enroll in the program anytime throughout the year, but if they do before March 1, they won't miss any meetings or classes. It costs $22 to be a 4-H member, with possible extra fees depending on the project. The program aims to involve everyone, including those who cannot afford the fees.
Anyone interested can call Jay Whaley at the Routt County Extension at 879-0825.