Steamboat Springs Lee Meyring's teachings helped mold the paths of at least three future veterinarians.
The veterinarian, who practices at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital, earned a statewide award for his work Saturday. The Colorado 4-H program at Colorado State University gave Meyring and five other adult volunteers the Outstanding 4-H Leader award.
Meyring started Routt County 4-H's Veterinary Science program in 1996. One graduate is a veterinarian, two are in veterinary school and at least two others are headed that way, Meyring said.
"That's certainly where I have the fun, is to encourage people," he said. "And if nothing else, a lot of these kids, they get a really good understanding of anatomy and physiology, and they can apply that to classes they take in school."
The participants, sometimes 20 or 30, meet at the hospital once a week from April through July. Twelve-year-old Mackenzie Holmberg plans to participate for the fourth time this year.
"He's just so personal, I guess," Mackenzie said. "He's great at what he does, and he definitely knows what he's doing, and it's just so great that he would be able to take this time afterward, when he could be done working for the day and go home."
The experience also helps youths decide whether that childhood interest in veterinary science is the real deal. Some get queasy or back off, Meyring said. Others, however, decide the field is right for them.
"I think what surprises me more so is not the number of kids who are grossed out by it but the number of kids that seem to sort of thrive on it. You couldn't come up with anything bizarre and bad-smelling enough to deter their enthusiasm at all," he said.
Eleven Routt County 4-H members joined Meyring and his wife, Erin, during the weekend in Denver. The ceremony was part of the Leadership Development Conference. Saturday's event included a talk by Gov. Bill Ritter and CSU Interim President Tony Frank, Routt County 4-H Agent Jay Whaley said. Whaley nominated Meyring for the award.
Meyring had no idea he was walking into an awards ceremony.
"It was 100 percent a surprise," he said. "I was under the understanding that we were going to a banquet my wife wanted to go to with some of the horse projects she does, so I went in there expecting a roomful of English rider people, and the surprise was on me."
Mackenzie and Whaley said Meyring did a great job of making the program hands-on.
"He's just great," Whaley said. "He'll save things that died, or he'll have animals that had to be worked on, and he'll go through and have the kids look at it and help diagnose it, help make a decision."
Whaley also is recruiting 4-H members. He'd like to get new youths signed up by March 1, and anyone interested can come by the Routt County Extension Office, call 970-879-0825 or visit www.routtcounty4h.org. Participants must be ages 8 to 18 as of Jan. 1. Whaley said youths with all kinds of interests were welcome.
"4-H the last two years has really been focusing on science, engineering and technology - not just the livestock projects," Whaley said.