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