Recent graduate Alice Schweigert lives in Rush City and has been a member of the North Stars 4-H Club her whole life.
âI like to say I joined 4-H when I was born. I grew up going to 4-H meetings, committees, and events before I was old enough to join. I technically didnât join until I was age eligible and officially enrolled in 4-H in kindergarten,â Schweigert said.
She officially started when she turned 5 as a Cloverbud, the portion of the club designed for children under third grade.
âI was actually one of those Cloverbud wanna-bes and so ready to join 4-H that I had made a project the year before I had even enrolled in 4-H. I had glued some buttons and pipe cleaners onto a basket and told my mom that it was my 4-H project,â she said. âI even went to the County Fair, sat down with the Cloverbud judge, got my project judged and got my very first rainbow ribbon.â
The rainbow ribbons are a noncompetitive ribbon given to younger 4-H members.
âAs I have gotten older I have done more and more with 4-H. When I joined 4-H at a younger age, I started out by doing only a few projects and events. As Iâve aged I would add and try more projects every year. As I have gotten older I also became a junior leader in my club and at the county level with the goat and dog projects. By being a junior leader I have set an example for those younger than me and helped teach them about these projects. I also helped the younger kids in my club with projects at our meetings and getting ready for the fair. This not only helped the younger kids but allowed me to gain and grow as a leader,â Schweigert said.
This focus on youth leadership is a hallmark of the 4-H program.
Schweigert explained that having a safe place to learn and grow has helped her.
âIt helped me find my own voice. It was a safe place away from the school bullies and drama. 4-H is its own community where everyone is welcome. I have developed friendships across the county and state. 4-H has also helped me increase my public speaking abilities and comfort and in many other ways.â
When she was in seventh grade she found her favorite project: the dog competition includes basic dog obedience training, rally (a complicated course the dog runs through that shows how well the dog and handler follow directions), agility (a course designed to showcase the dogâs physical ability) and showmanship (which shows how well the handler manages the pressure of the ring). It also has a knowledge component called the Dog Project Bowl, âwhich is similar to knowledge bowl but with a focus on dogs,â explained Schweigert. Questions cover a variety of topics from types and breeds of dogs to veterinary science. âI had so much fun with this project that I definitely plan on helping with this one now that I can enroll as a 4-H volunteer.â
Now that Schweigert is no longer eligible for 4-H she has jumped right into her role as an adult volunteer.
Her favorite memory of the fair sums up the 4-H philosophy: âMy favorite 4-H memory is at the state level â specifically the state dog show. This was my last 4-H event as a member and I had qualified for agility and showmanship this year. During intermediate agility with my Chihuahua, Lucky, he decided to be the class clown. While doing the weave poles he decided to sit and stare at me for a solid 15 seconds. Once he got to the tunnel (which he usually loves), he decided to jump on top of the tunnel and walk the length of it like it would count as if he went through it (it doesnât). Everyone, along with myself, was laughing. The dog project teaches you that no matter how much you work with the dogs, they may get to show day and do their own thing. While this may take you out of the running for the top awards, I remember that it is not about the winning but about spending time with manâs best friend, doing your best and having fun.â
It is not all about awards, but growth through skills, knowledge and leadership that counts.