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Rocky Ridge’s 4-H

Katelyn Phelan
MSN Class of 2011

"I’d like to call this meeting to order!" Konnar Miller, a high school junior, authoritatively called to a gathering of more than fifty people at the Rocky Ridge 4-H club. Miller is the President, and she, along with three other high school students, Taylor Clarke (Secretary), Maggie Lanham (Vice President), and Ashley Barto (Treasurer) form the student leadership of Rocky Ridge’s group.

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This section of the 4-H club is the largest in Frederick County, with fifty-one members. Kids ranging from 8 to 18 belong to the club and attend monthly meetings that are largely dedicated to planning events and participating in service. That’s part of the reason Barto enjoys 4-H so much. "It’s about giving back to the community," she said. Clarke agreed, chiming in about the variety of service learning opportunities in the club.

Part of 4-H’s mission is to do as much as possible for the community and their pledge reflects that: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, my world." 4-H is determined to improve the community by helping all members be the best that they can be, and this is done partly through service.

The club does different service projects each month. March’s project was collecting cards for people like soldiers or nursing home residents. The project for February was to collect tea towels for the 4-H camp center for use at summer camps. Not all the service is organized by adult leaders, though. Students are responsible for organizing extensive service projects in order to achieve certain levels of membership. This is based off the Boy Scout model. 4-H has six levels which require members to accomplish certain leadership tasks like chairing committees and acting as camp counselors. The final project, the diamond clover project, is a large event organized by one 4-H member. Margo Sweeney is in the process of completing her diamond clover project and is organizing a petting zoo and offering pony rides as well as scooping ice cream at Gateway Farm Market on May 1st to raise money for the 4-H therapeutic riding program.

As a whole, the 4-H club does a great deal of fundraising. The officers rattled off a list of fundraisers they had done just off the top of their heads. They have visited nursing homes, sold sandwiches, peddled Wolfgang candy, and made pet treats. The money they raise goes to places as varied as their projects. Money has gone to animal shelters, a 4-H scholarship fund, and to finance service projects like army care packages. Money also goes into a general 4-H fund where the students withdraw money to have fun, because fun is part of the club’s mission also.

4-H hosts Christmas parties, Halloween parties, pizza parties, and other good social events for kids in the community to come together and grow in friendship. Miller spoke with pride about the close bond that Rocky Ridge’s 4-H club has with each other. She has been in 4-H since she was allowed to join at age eight. She joined because her dad had been a 4-H member when he was a boy and remembers his experience fondly. Miller wasn’t disappointed by any expectations she may have had. She spoke of her 4-H club warmly as a great place to socialize and gain important skills. Many of the kids have gone to school with one another for many years, but she credits 4-H with really bringing them together in close friendships.

And that, according to these leaders, is what 4-H is all about—friendship. They also spoke of the club’s role in promoting leadership and responsibility, and cited this emphasis as reasons why they love 4-H. For Clarke, who joined at age eight, that’s one of the most important things that 4-H has given her. As secretary of the club she has many responsibilities; the weightiest one being taking attendance. She realizes the importance of accuracy because 4-H members need to attend a certain number of meetings in order to remain in the club. Because 4-H is so important to her, she never wants to make a mistake which would result in the unfair expulsion of a member. Before becoming a club leader she also had other responsibilities in 4-H. She began taking care of cows and horses in order to show them in an important 4-H fair, which is a main focus of this club.

The 4-H club of Rocky Ridge focuses mostly on the livestock market and preparation for a large fair in Frederick in the summer. At this fair, 4-H members can show animals, like goats, rabbits, beef, swine, and sheep, and they can even sell their animals. There are several opportunities throughout the year to show animals, though the fair is the largest one.

The club also holds specific interest meetings. For example, there are separate meetings for swine, goat, rabbit, sheep, and beef enthusiasts. Each group organizes different events to educate others and bring group members together. For example, an upcoming event for members interested in rabbits is a county-wide rabbit workshop. Those interested in learning about rabbits and showing them can come to an informative meeting led largely by experienced 4-H kids who have shown rabbits before. These older members will be involved with teaching the younger ones.

Rocky Ridge’s 4-H is largely animal based, which is what nine-year-old Jason Baust loves. His favorite part of the club is that "you get to be around animals!" He loves working with the cows, his favorite animal, and listed washing them, blowing them dry, and brushing them as some of his favorite things to do as a club member.

But, as Clarke was quick to point out, animals are not the only thing that 4-H deals with. "There are plenty of things for any member to do; 4-H has something for everyone," she said. In addition to animal groups, there are also groups that focus on cooking, crafts, and photography. These groups also have additional meetings. Next month, the craft club is making small lambs and eggs out of wool. These categories—crafts, cooking, and photography—are also eligible for entry into different fairs around the county.

The club, though championed by capable and enthusiastic student leaders, is largely run by two tireless and involved adult leaders, Brenda Seiss and Becky Clark. These women have been involved in 4-H since they were in the club as young children. The two are sisters and share similar sentiments about the importance of 4-H because of the difference it made in their lives. Seiss loves being surrounded by the youth, and especially seeing the "second generation," or children of 4-H members whom she remembers working with in their youth. Becky enjoys seeing the kids grow and the observing the difference it makes for kids, both personally and socially. Both leaders attribute the success and popularity of this service organization to good parents and enthusiastic kids.

Rocky Ridge 4-H is always accepting new members. To join this close-knit, active club call the Frederick County 4-H Development at 301-600-1589.