National 4-H week celebrates youth | Editorial

I awaited every spring with one thing in mind: when would the box of baby chickens arrive. I fed them, stroked their soft feathers, cried when the weak ones died and rejoiced when the others grew up strong and feisty, laying eggs for us all year long.

Living with chickens, pheasants, ducks, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs and cats taught me important lessons about responsibility, love and mortality. Raising farm animals is an experience that many island kids are lucky to have.

More than six million young people across the United States will be celebrating National 4-H Week, which takes place annually during the first full week of October. 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the world.

San Juan County 4-H uses the week to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of the young people who work to a make a positive impact in their community. And this year has been memorable for Orcas members.

The Orcas Island Community Foundation provided a grant in May of 2014 to purchase curriculum materials for poultry, sheep, dog, rabbit and horse 4-H projects.

“Our 4-H members were able to utilize and study the comprehensive materials before competition at the San Juan County Fair this year – the learning kits have helped everyone learn more about their projects plus win awards in showing and judging contests,” said Danna Kinsey, an Orcas parent and 4-H leader.

Orcas Island 4-H Club Fur and Feathers, led by Kathy Morris, has added an alpaca club with the help of Orcas Moon Alpacas and Jennifer Pietsch. A new exhibit plus showmanship and obstacle classes were at the county fair this year.

The Orcas Island Trailblazers Horse 4-H club, led by Lorena Stankevich, won a special award from the Fair Board for its exhibit, and they have one rider this year participating at the Washington State Fair from Sept. 15-18. Look for regular community service projects sponsored by 4-H clubs, including making Christmas stockings for food bank families and dinners at the Orcas Senior Center. The next dinner is Sept. 17 from 6 to 7 p.m. The menu is cauliflower soup, local green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, roasted chicken, creamy mashed potatoes with gravy, veggies and apple rhubarb crisp for dessert served with coffee and tea. The cost is $5 for kids and seniors and $10 for adults.

Research has proven that participation in 4-H has a significant positive impact on young people. Recent findings from a Tufts University study indicate that, when compared to their peers, young people in 4-H are:

• Nearly four times more likely to contribute to their communities

• Two times more likely to pursue healthy behaviors

• Two times more likely to engage in science, technology, engineering and math programs outside of school

To learn more, visit or find them on Facebook at and Twitter at

Please consider enrolling your child in one of these programs – or even be a part of it yourself by volunteering. We live in communities that are ideal for exploring the world around us.

– Colleen Smith Armstrong