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The path to joining 4-H doesn’t require a country residence, a Cloverbud alumni card, or starting at eight years old. For three young ladies from three different Glacier County clubs who just wrapped up their first year in 4-H, their means of joining 4-H varied. However, their consensus that 4-H brings fun, learning and friendships was consistent. 

Eleven-year-old Kortney Hart joined the Longview 4-H Club after her friends, Ashlyn Brown and Brad Hjartarson encouraged her to join with the promise of 4-H fun. 

Nine-year-old Abby Rooney joined the Curry Comb Club after three years of Cloverbuds and really wanting to have a pig. Abby had spent years watching her older brother and cousins participate in 4-H and was ecstatic when she was finally old enough to join. 

For 14-year-old Jacklyn Waller, it was a 4-H mom, Leslie Berkram, who strongly encouraged her to join 4-H and the Clever Clovers 4-H club. 

“It’s a really great way to learn new things and get involved in the community,” Kortney Hart said of 4-H. The daughter of Rob and Lisa Hart, Kortney enrolled in Babysitting, Child Development, Family Adventures, Sewing and Archery her first year. Kortney’s favorite project was sewing where she learned the parts of the sewing machine and created an apron, beanbag, scrunchie and pillowcase throughout the year with the help of her mom, grandma and Rachel Brown.

Abby, the daughter of Scott and Amy Rooney, enrolled in Cake Decorating, Party Planner, Rabbit and Swine her first year. Abby enjoyed the time spent with her family working on projects. “I liked having some Mom and me time,” Abby said referring to her mom’s help with her projects. “And it was always fun when Grandma helped me with my cakes,” she added. Abby especially enjoyed making a cake for her dad and brother’s return from a trip. Abby had her dad pick random cake decorating tips and then she created a cake using those tips.

Jackie, the daughter of Mike Waller and Annette Pruttis, chose Dog, Swine and Welding for her first-year projects. Jackie noted it was fellow 4-Hers who helped point her in the right direction with her projects. Katelyn Suta helped teach Jackie the fine points of the swine project while Hadley Barbie shared her dog showmanship knowledge. 

“My favorite was the pig,” Jackie shared. “I had no clue when I started, but just learned as I went.” 

Her hard work paid off with the swine herdsmanship award of the Marias Fair and the Grand Champion Obedience trophy at the dog show among other dog awards.

These 4-Hers grew not just in their projects, but also in their club work. “I really liked how everyone’s opinion was heard. It didn’t matter their age, their grade, or how new they were to the club, they all got to help make decisions and your opinion mattered,” Kortney said. 

Communication was also a skill they honed through 4-H. “I learned public speaking and to make eye contact during an interview,” Jackie said. Despite being nervous going into her fair interviews, she reported receiving all blue and purple ribbons on the process. 

For Jackie and Abby, the pig project was a highlight. “Dad and I really liked the pigs, it was fun,” Jackie reported. Jackie plans to save up her pig sale proceeds for a college education, with the goal of becoming a veterinarian.

“I learned to not be afraid of pigs,” Abby said. “I usually don’t like to get dirt on my clothes, but all my clothes got dirty with a pig and I got used to it!” she said. From April through July, Abby was responsible for feeding and watering her pigs along with training them for the show. In addition, she enjoyed learning her pig’s favorite treats. “They were obsessed with rainbow cheerio cereal,” she said. “They loved marshmallows, gummies and watermelon rinds were their favorite!”

For Abby, a highlight of her club work was being the high seller of the Butter Braid pastries across the county for their club fundraiser. She also enjoyed their club BBQ, helping with the Curry Comb Parade of Lights float, and serving at the Soup and Bread luncheon for the Senior Center. Abby reported she made decorated clover, cow, chicken, sheep and pig sugar cookies for the Soup and Bread luncheon and, “Everyone was eating my cookies!”

As these 4-Hers look ahead to the next year, each young lady has plans to continue in 4-H. “I want to do a lot more projects and be more involved. I want to go to 4-H camp again, run for a club office and take a pig to the fair,” Kortney said.

Abby is already planning her Party Planning project. Last year, she organized a cookie decorating party for her friends, but this year she is planning to expand the event to a cookie party that will also function as a fundraiser for the Great Falls Children’s Hospital. “I watch and read a lot about autism and cancer and I think it would be really cool to do something like this,” Abby said of her desire to donate to the hospital. This year she plans to invite friends over to make cookie dough, bake and decorate cookies and then sell trays of the cookies before Christmas. 

These young ladies encourage others to join 4-H and noted the support for 4-H. “The instructors and parents are all really nice and help out,” Kortney said. “I would recommend it to anyone. It’s a great way to meet people and learn new things, and you don’t have to have an animal,” Kortney said.

Abby closed with advice to a future new member, “I hope you have a fun year. I really hope you join our club, but all the clubs are fun!”

No matter the projects, club, or background, 4-H has allowed each of these young ladies to develop communication skills and responsibility, grow their interests and make 4-H friends. This trio of young ladies epitomizes the 4-H slogan of, “Learn by doing,” and they are ready for another great year of 4-H!

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