A 4-H ‘Star’ in the making

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Porterville senior Willow Werlhof works toward Emerald Star award after nine years in 4-H

By Nancy Vigran
Special to the Sun-Gazette

TULARE COUNTY – The Emerald Star! It’s the crowning achievement earned in 4-H. And, Willow Werlhof wants one. The Porterville senior, has been a member of Prairie Center 4-H for nine years. She’s worked hard and earned every other star, and every credit possible within 4-H. So, she came up with a concept.

The Emerald Star project’s purpose should include:

• Providing an opportunity for 4-H members to develop projects in their community or in 4-H beyond the club level

• Improving, creating, and expanding 4-H programs

• Helping individual 4-H members grow and improve in the areas of organization, leadership, and project planning

Having been most active in livestock, it made sense for Willow to pursue that field for her Emerald Star. She chose to arrange for a Kickoff Livestock Meeting last October, where new 4-H and returning members could learn more about the nutritional needs for their livestock project.

“Nine-year-olds don’t really know how to plan and what to feed a livestock project,” she said. And, for returning project members, she felt this could be a way to advance their project.

Last year, Willow planned and managed a successful Kickoff Livestock meeting. However, she had not applied for her Emerald Star by deadline. The meeting was an enormous success with some 30 4-H and/or FFA Porterville-area students in attendance.

Willow made arrangements with the Porterville Fairgrounds, for the speaker, sponsors, and how to get the word out, said her project advisor, Pam Gruber. And, this year, she’s doing it all again. This time, however, it is being promoted throughout the county. “It’s a lot of work,” Gruber said.

Willow’s project is aimed at those involved in cattle, hogs, sheep and goats.

The Kickoff Livestock Meeting will be held on Oct. 24 at the Porterville Fairgrounds. Any interested Tulare County 4-H or FFA member is invited to attend. The guest speaker is Susan Perry. Sponsors include Associated Feed and Evans Feed.

Willow has been busy with email promotion and a Facebook campaign for her project. She’s also been placing flyers at feed stores. She’s excited about hosting this, the second Kickoff Livestock Meeting, and about receiving an Emerald Star.

She will have to provide a summary and have a review of her project to complete her crowning star.

“It will make me feel real accomplished,” she said, “and will complete my 4-H experience. It also will look good on a college application.”

4-H has helped Willow come out of her shell. ”I used to be really shy, and now I am a social butterfly,” she said.

Willow is applying to 10 colleges around the country including three here in California. She plans to major in animal science. Her favorite livestock, it’s a tough choice, she said, but it would have to be hogs. She also largely enjoys horses and showing them.

Advisor Gruber’s own daughter, Bailey is now a freshman at Texas A&M University. She earned her Emerald Star with a project on bullying. Bailey had visited and involved Visalia middle and high schools in her project. Gruber is not a Prairie Center 4-H leader, but rather a longtime 4-H leader who now supervises those involved in working to earn an Emerald Star.

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