It was Home Arts Day on April 12 as hundreds of 4-H members gathered to showcase their projects in areas such as woodworking, sewing, photography, rocketry, robotics and arts and crafts.
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It was also a special day for two teens who were honored for their service and accomplishments as members of 4-H.
Held at Light of the Hills Lutheran Church in Cameron Park, the multi-purpose room was alive with activity as youngsters, parents, judges and visitors examined the displays or stopped to participate in different activities taking place from carding and spinning alpaca fiber to making stamp art.
Many gathered at the table of Jacob Gray, 18, of Shingle Springs, who talked about how he teaches others to build computers, do animation and trouble shoot problems.
“I’m also on the State Tech Team,” he said.
Across from him were 4-H teens busily hanging a display of photographs they had taken before the judges arrived.
Off in another corner, a small robot programmed by some of the 4-H’ers attracted a small crowd as it followed a path on a line of tape laid out in a pattern on the rug.
Upstairs was even more crowded as a long line of girls eagerly waited their turn before the judges to model clothing they had made. Later that day, they would show off those same clothes during a fashion show.
Outside were more activities as youths cut puzzle pieces on an electric jig saw while another group gathered on a hill to launch water-bottle rockets.
Overseeing the hubbub was Tracy Celio, the 4-H program representative for El Dorado County and organizer of the event, who exclaimed, “This is our biggest show ever.”
As a special kick off to the day’s activities, awards were also presented to two 4-H youths who exemplify everything that 4-H is all about — service, achievement and learning by doing.
First to be recognized was Gina Phillipsen, 16, who lives in Shingle Springs. She earned a President’s Volunteer Service Award signed by President Obama for her numerous hours of community service working with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
In addition, the teen earned an award of recognition from California Assemblyman Frank Bigelow.
Trish Sweeney, Bigelow’s Field Representative, delivered the award and recognized Phillipsen for her leadership and volunteerism.
“Service and dedication to the people of El Dorado County and to 4-H is an important part of our local community,” Sweeney said.
Phillipsen, who has been a part of 4-H for 12 years, said she has helped train three and a half guide dogs as a 4-H project. Her family is actually on its ninth dog as Phillipsen’s older sisters also trained them. The dogs are taken into the home at 8 weeks and cared for until they are 14 months old.
“My main job is to socialize them,” she said. “I don’t do any of the fancy training such as stopping at intersections. I teach them the basic commands like come and sit. I make sure they aren’t afraid of anything and can walk next to heavy traffic. I also bring them next to fire engine sirens and introduce them to kids and old people.”
Phillipsen’s current charge is a beautiful 9-week-old black Labrador puppy named Nepal. Phillipsen said she raised Nepal’s mother as well.
“I picked this project because I’m a huge dog fan. I love puppies. It’s just such a good thing. They are the eyes of the blind person,” said Phillipsen.
Another teen selected for special recognition was Placerville resident William Winter, 17, who earned the 4-H Diamond Clover Award.
According to Celio, this is the highest honor one can receive in 4-H, with Winter being the first local youth to receive it in a decade.
To earn this award, Winter has served as a team leader, was a conference and workshop presenter at a state leadership conference and has also helped with camps and conferences such as Saturday’s Home Arts Event. In addition, he has served as president of the 4-H county council for two years and has earned all four stars from 4-H.
“He has done absolutely everything in 4-H that one can achieve,” said Celio. “He earned a gold record at the state level which is an amazing, amazing achievement.”
Winter said he got into 4-H after a friend and his mother encouraged him to join. Now six years later, he has participated in all kinds of projects like beef, rabbits, goats, presentations, woodworking and club leadership.
“I’m a creative person, so I like to spread out and get hands on,” he said. “I’m a big fan of constructing and building things. Everything is hands on. That’s what I like about 4-H.”
When not busy with 4-H, the teen plays in the high school band and jazz band. His instruments include the mellophone and trumpet and as a side hobby he plays the cello.
Graduating from high school in June, Winter is off to Purdue University later this year where he plans to pursue a double major in electrical and mechanical engineering.
Describing the value of 4-H to himself and others, Winter said, “Joining 4-H offers a lot of opportunities to not only expand yourself but to reach out to other people. You build character and qualities that will help you succeed in life such as communicating, team work and leadership. They are vital skills you can use for everyday activities and help push you forward in life. There are so many projects in 4-H, you’ll never get bored. And if you want, you can create your own projects, too.”
Looking around the room on Home Arts Day, one got a sense of just how many creative and hands on learning opportunities there are for youths in 4-H.
For more information about the 4-H programs in El Dorado County call Celio at 530-621-5507.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.