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4-H clubs allow valley youths hands-on chance to learn

Studying isn’t limited to the classroom. Youths can extend their areas of expertise through Nevada 4-H, which is preparing for a new year filled with projects and hands-on activities.

4-H, which refers to head, heart, hands and health, is part of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and works to engage young people in a variety of positive development experiences.

“The whole idea is to involve kids in something they’re interested in and find leaders who can give them resources to learn life skills,” said Lori Leas, community-based instructor for the program. “Kids learn about responsibilities and goal-setting.”

While many 4-H clubs are conducted at schools and led through teachers, there is a plethora of clubs based throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

Members can sign up for project clubs, which are centered on one project area led by a volunteer leader. Clubs range in topics from photography, crochet, robotics, outdoor sports, health and more.

“The curriculum can focus on anything that you can think of,” Leas said. “It’s just a matter of who we can get to volunteer and what the kids want to learn.”

Past projects have included gardening, geocaching, poultry and rabbit showmanship and dancing.

In addition, there are community clubs that involve members of different ages and interests. All members attend monthly general club meetings held throughout the year, and the whole club works together on service projects and group activities.

Rick Huskins is the leader of the Roadrunners 4-H Club based in Centennial Hills. The club focuses on teaching and helping youths raise animals. Youths also learn about cooking, baking, planting, raising crops and camping survival skills.

“The program exposes kids in an urban environment to things that happen in real America,” Huskins said. “We teach them where their food comes from, and we try to make kids good citizens. They learn that they’re part of a community and that they need to give back to the community.”

Club members participate in one or more projects that focus on their interests.

Together, members can chose how often they want to meet and for how long. It depends on their projects and the goals they want to set, Leas added.

4-H after-school clubs and programs are also available in a setting that provides care for youth while parents are unavailable.

Volunteers are needed to lead different clubs, and all volunteers receive orientation and training.

“I’ve had volunteers who have said they’ve received better jobs because of their experience with this program,” Leas said. “Volunteers receive practical training that can help them in the long run.”

Recently, Desert Pines Equine Medical & Surgery Center hosted a 4-H Horse Science project for youths. Participants studied equine nutrition, first aid, equine vital signs, common diseases, parasites and bio-security.

What started out as a summer project has turned into the newest 4-H Club in the northwest.

“We create short-term projects like these to help new members and leaders get started,” Leas said. “Our goal is to turn the projects into a long-term club.”

Enrollment officially begins Oct. 1. Students who are between the ages of 9 and 19 by January 2015 are eligible to join.

There must be at least five youths from three families in a 4-H club. Club size also depends on adult leader support, meeting space and whether the club is a community or project club, according to unce.unr.edu.

Members may be asked to pay for project books, items, activity fees, club dues and other event expenses, although Leas added that the costs are usually minimal.

“This program has been going on for 100 years,” Leas said. “It’s been so successful because we match kids with similar interests to work on projects and gain (knowledge) on different topics.”

For more information or to find a club, visit unce.unr.edu/4h.

Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at slopez@viewnews.com or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

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