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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • More than livestock: 4-H creates leaders

  •      In the course of interviewing a number of different 4-H leaders in anticipation of the fair, a theme emerged:  4-H isn't just for farm kids.  Club leaders and project leaders alike emphasized the leadership skills kids learn from various aspect of 4-H programs.  Jolene Brauer and Jennifer Latzke are no exceptions.


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  •      In the course of interviewing a number of different 4-H leaders in anticipation of the fair, a theme emerged:  4-H isn't just for farm kids.  Club leaders and project leaders alike emphasized the leadership skills kids learn from various aspect of 4-H programs.  Jolene Brauer and Jennifer Latzke are no exceptions.
         As the "Exploring 4-H" project leader Jolene Brauer is always working on something different.
         "Some of the things I assist with include; suggesting ideas for entries at the fair, assisting with completing projects for the fair, teaching the foundations of 4-H life skills, the benefits of being active in the 4-H program and assisting with completion of record books," said Brauer in an e-mail interview.
         In addition to all of those responsibilities she also likes to get 4-H'ers introduced to the variety of projects that they can do. She understands that there is still an idea that 4-H is just for farm kids, and Brauer tries to prove that isn't true.
         "4-H is important in developing life skills," said Brauer. "Kansas 4-H emphasizes five things; 1. developing positive self, 2. sound decision making, 3. positive interpersonal relationships, 4. desire for life long learning and 5. concern for community."
         Brauer herself got involved with 4-H when she was young. Her mother had been in 4-H as well and wanted her children to be a part of it too. Her husband was in 4-H in Nebraska when he was growing up as well, and now their children are active in the program.
         "Our family is very strong because we believe in the 4-H program and the opportunities it has given to enrich our lives," said Brauer. "We have a lot of fun memories and along the way have made friends that are lasting a lifetime."
         4-H is about more than just projects, reminds Brauer.
         "The opportunities are there," said Brauer, "parents and kids just have to step up and do what they can to 'make the best better'. Which is the 4-H motto."
         Jennifer Latzke signed up to be the Fiber Arts project leader so that if 4-H'ers or their parents had any questions they could contact her for advice and she would help them out.
         "Most of the youth in the fiber arts project are pretty self-sufficient though, so it's more of a title than anything really," said Latzke in an e-mail interview.
         Latzke is a huge proponent of 4-H, here in Ford County, in the State of Kansas and at the national level. She was in 4-H for 11 years herself, and both of her parents were project leaders in the community.
         4-H was a very rewarding experience for Latzke. It helped her become a confident public speaker and communicator and led to her career today as an agriculture journalist writing for the High Plains Journal. In addition, 4-H helped her make friends across the country, gave her the opportunity to travel from her small town in Kansas to West Virginia, Washington D.C., Nashville, Tenn. and more.
    Page 2 of 2 -      "Most of all, 4-H taught me to step forward when someone asked for help, to be a leader in my community and to raise my hand and say 'yes, I will serve' instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me," said Latzke.
         According to Latzke, what makes 4-H such a worthwhile program is that it lets kids learn through doing.   Adults who are involved pass their skills on to youth.
         "The fiber arts project isn't a large project by any means," said Latzke. "But, if one kid gets a sense of accomplishment out of creating a pot holder out of what was once a skein of yarn, then we've done our job.  And, maybe that kid learns that he or she can do something creative on his or her own. And they set another goal, and meet it. And another. It just takes a spark. 4-H is that spark."
    Reach Julia Kazar at (620) 408-9913 or e-mail her at julia.kazar@dodgeglobe.com

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