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4-H Cuts Hurt

Colorado 4-H members feel the economic pinch

By Topanga McBride | null null , null
4-H member Sarah Hirsch of Colorado with her Holstein heifer, Solstice at a recent Colorado State Fair. (Photo Courtesy Topanga McBride)
4-H member Sarah Hirsch of Colorado with her Holstein heifer, Solstice at a recent Colorado State Fair. (Photo Courtesy Topanga McBride)

Sarah Hirsch is the president of Severance 4-H Club in Weld County, Colorado. The 14 year old's duties include serving as a role model for younger members. As president and a five-year member of the organization, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hirsch loves her work with 4-H.

"It's important because I've learned so much like leadership and responsibility," she said in a recent interview with the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. "It's a big part of my life."

Hirsch is currently raising dairy cattle and pigs. She earns reward money at stock shows and fairs if her animals place. For many kids in 4-H, placing at a fair is an important source of income.

4-H Clubs across the country are suffering from the downturn in the economy. Weld County, which is one of the largest counties in Colorado in both area and population, is currently facing job layoffs. That means fewer people to help oversee student projects.

4-H is run through the Colorado State University (CSU) Extension Office, which provides other services like agriculture, horticulture, and food nutrition support to local farmers and gardeners. Jobs in these services are also are in jeopardy.

Lauri Sutton, a member of the Leaders' Council in Weld County, believes clubs like 4-H are really important for kids. The Leaders' Council informs, supports, and trains leaders. It also disperses money for things like scholarships, equipment, and awards.

"School is only able to do so much," Sutton said. "Schools don't have enough time and funding to allow hands-on exploration [of these projects]."

Some jobs are already vacant and there is no money available to fill them, says Keith Maxey, the Dairy and 4-H Youth Development Agent at the CSU extension office.

"(People) have come to know extension as being able to provide certain services," he said. "Now we've got some holes and gaps because we haven't been able to keep positions full."

Empty jobs include the 4-H Program Coordinator, Fair Coordinator, Office Manager, and Livestock Agent.

Programs like 4-H are important for kids, especially as they grow up and enter the workforce, Maxey said. Employers like to hire former 4-H members because they know that person has been trained in responsibility.

"They have been learning leadership, public speaking, problem solving, many different life skills," Maxey. "They've learned all that in the course of their 4-H project."

Hirsch said she understands that times are bad and job cuts are unavoidable. But with no one filling those important positions, it's the kids who are feeling the pinch.

"I felt kind of horrible about them cutting jobs," she said, "Things won't get done because now there are less people."

Check out the websites for 4-H Clubs in Colorado and around the country for more information about 4-H!

Kids and the Economy

Kid Reporters take a look at the economy and how it is affecting kids and their communities during this holiday season in the Kids and the Economy Special Report.

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