4-H program gets young members involved
A program created by the Alberta 4-H Council in 2009 has become a hit with the Irricana 4-H Country Riders.
The Cleaver Kids Pilot Project was established three years ago to give six- to eight-year-olds a taste of the 4-H lifestyle.
Under the direction of their own leaders, Cleaver Kids are able to choose their project and do everything regular club members are able to, only on a smaller scale.
Esther Stern’s nine-year-old daughter, Paige, is part of the Irricana club’s Level 1 riders, along with nine-year-old Martina Pagenkopf and 11-year-old Bridgette Shaw.
Paige was part of the Cleaver program before reaching the age that riders are allowed to compete at 4-H on Parade.
“The Cleaver organizers (did) a fantastic job organizing an entire program getting all the little guys introduced to 4-H on Parade and all that 4-H has to offer,” Stern said.
“Paige was in the program for two years and this is her first year at Level 1 and she’s so excited.
“It’s a sibling thing. I have two older daughters, so Paige was hauled around, just like Martina and Bridgette because their older siblings have been in 4-H.
“They just can’t wait to get into the 4-H club and get moving. It’s a good opportunity to get the younger kids involved and they tend to stay with the program right up until graduation.”
While the involvement of Paige’s older sisters had an impact on her decision to join 4-H, she also loves working with her horse, Oreo, a 28-year-old Welsh pony.
“I wanted to get involved because it’s a great opportunity to work with your horse and train them,” Paige said. “I have a connection with animals and my favourites are horses, so I really wanted to get to know them and deal with them.”
Like Paige, Shaw was inspired to join 4-H by her older sister. Shaw competed at this year’s 4-H on Parade with her horse, Bambi, from June 1 to 3 at the Calgary Stampede grounds.
“It started with (my sister),” Shaw said. “I saw how much fun she was having and I decided ‘hey, that looks fun.’ I thought it would be a great way to train and have fun.”
Having two older children in 4-H for a number of years, Stern has seen what being a member of the club holds for the younger members, like Paige, Shaw and Pagenkopf.
Aside from competing at events like 4-H on Parade, members can also attend leadership camps and become camp counsellors.
“The other projects and opportunities 4-H offers are incredible,” Stern said. “The camps get them ready to exit high school and take care of themselves.
“It teaches them how to (manage their money), and it’s just awesome to get them involved in that sort of thing.”
Another aspect of the 4-H community that Stern enjoys is the tight-knit friendships the members create.
“They get to meet people from across Canada and Alberta,” she said. “They’re on Facebook with kids from all over. Then, they come to these regional competitions and they get to see each other. I don’t worry about them because everybody takes care of everybody.”
While the pilot project ends after the 2011-2012 season, Stern is hoping that (Cleaver Kids) turns into a permanent option for 4-H clubs across the province.
“I really hope they continue the program,” she said. “It’s a great introduction to (regular 4-H).”