4-H clan hon­ored for in­spir­ing chil­dren to get up and goat

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Alexis Jaramillo Paul Aiken , Daily Cam­era

For Sue Struthers and her daugh­ter, 17-year-old Ken­zie, 4-H is more than just a hobby, it is a way of life.

4-H, an ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram that pro­vides lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties and hands-on pro­jects for kids ages 8-18, has been a part of Struthers’ life since she was a girl.

“I was a 4-H’er when I was a kid,” she said. “My mother started a 4-H club in the early ’70s.

“I’ve been in 4-H all the years that I could be a mem­ber and then when my daugh­ter was old enough to join 4-H, we were back in 4-H again.”

But what started off as a first project for Ken­zie be­came a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion for nu­mer­ous chil­dren around Boul­der County who wanted to get in­volved but could not be­cause of a lack of land.

“When we started 4-H with my daugh­ter Ken­zie, we started off look­ing at goats as a live­stock project that I thought as a lit­tle kid she could han­dle,” Struthers said. “We got angora goats, and Ken­zie in ele­men­tary school and mid­dle school would bring her friends up to the farm and they’d play with her goats and we would say, ‘Why aren’t you in 4-H?’ To a T, ev­ery one of them said, ‘We don’t have any land, I can’t do live­stock pro­jects, so I just don’t want to do 4-H.’”

See­ing how many po­ten­tial 4-H kids there were, Struthers de­cided to take ac­tion.

“I talked with her (Ken­zie) about the pos­si­bil­ity of shar­ing her goats and at that time we met a lady from Gun­ni­son who also ran a lease-a-goat pro­gram and she gave me in­for­ma­tion on how to do it,” Struthers said. “So, we ap­proached Boul­der County to see if this kind of a thing would work here and af­ter work­ing all the de­tails out with them we de­cided we could start a lease-a-goat pro­gram.”

The pro­gram, which Struthers said is a bona fide suc­cess, is only a start for many new 4-H mem­bers.

“Hon­estly, once they get in 4-H, the ma­jor­ity of them find an­other project that they ab­so­lutely love and they ei­ther stay with me and lease-a-goat or they move on to some­thing that they just love,” Struthers said. “(The pro­gram) is kind of my way of bring­ing kids into the 4-H pro­gram so that they can find things they love to do and just con­tinue on.”

Struthers, whose clan has been named Boul­der County Fair’s 2017 Fair Fam­ily, hopes that she will be able to spread the word about 4-H to a new au­di­ence.

“That’s one of the things I’m very pas­sion­ate about,” Struthers said. “I think ev­ery kid should be in 4-H in my own per­sonal, hum­ble opin­ion. It’s just so good for kids to be in­volved in 4-H be­cause they learn so much from it. They learn how to work with their peers, they’ve got to be able to run meet­ings, they’ve got to be able to stand up and give pub­lic talks. They’ve got to be able to un­der­stand what judg­ing is and how if they’re not cho­sen for first place, why, and to be a re­ally good sport about it and to learn to do bet­ter.”

Above all, though, “It teaches them re­spon­si­bil­ity. They’ve got to get up and put the ef­fort for­ward,” Struthers said.

Ken­zie, re­spond­ing via email, has slightly dif­fer­ent plans for her new sta­tus.

“It’s go­ing on my ré­sumé when I ap­ply to (Col­orado State Univer­sity),” said Ken­zie, who has a hear­ing im­pair­ment. “But I hope to use it to in­spire more kids, es­pe­cially those who live in ur­ban ar­eas, to get in­volved with 4-H and be­come more in­vested in the world and in lead­er­ship. I hope this can be used to in­spire kids that are LGBT and dis­abled like my­self to step into the spot­light and be­come lead­ers.”

Al­though she is not as in­volved as she used to be, Ken­zie re­mains ded­i­cated to the or­ga­ni­za­tion and still finds small ways to stay ac­tive in the 4-H com­mu­nity.

“I’ve never missed a year, ac­tu­ally,” Ken­zie said. “I’m heav­ily ded­i­cated to my club and the work I do for the county. Cur­rently, I am the trea­surer of the Crit­ters and Cre­ations 4-H Club and the vice pres­i­dent of the Youth Coun­cil and will be the trea­surer for the 2017-18 year. I’m cur­rently the Out­stand­ing Se­nior 4-H mem­ber for the 2016-17 year, and an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in my county’s rab­bit judg­ing team.”

Af­ter decades of es­tab­lish­ing ties with the proud or­ga­ni­za­tion, the fam­ily is hon­ored that they are be­ing rec­og­nized.

“It’s just very nice to be cho­sen as the fam­ily who has given a lot back to the com­mu­nity,” Struthers said.

“It’s a pleas­ant sur­prise and an honor,” Ken­zie said. But, she con­ceded, “I think it’s mostly my mom’s do­ing.”

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