PAY IT FORWARD: 4-H members mentor their younger counterparts

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Longtime 4-H members Alyssa Cain and Kaylie Low give younger member Lauren Locker, 10, some pointers as she guides her pig Zora around the show arena at the Hancock County Fairgrounds on Friday. Mentoring is a big part of the 4-H program, especially during the 4-H fair, which kicked off Friday, June 17.

Shelley Swift | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD – Alyssa Cain and Kaylie Low wandered around the Hancock County Fairgrounds Friday morning to see if anyone needed a helping hand.

The longtime 4-H members know how important it is to be there for the less experienced kids, especially on the first day of the fair – which was Friday, June 17.

Both girls are members of 4-H Junior Leaders, a group dedicated to helping guide younger members through the program.

“They look up to us just like we looked up to the older members when we were younger, so we want to help them out as much as we can,” said Alyssa, 16, who attends New Palestine High School.

On Friday, she and Kaylie helped 10-year-old Lauren Locker guide her Berkshire pig, Zora, around the East Show Arena.

Lauren was also getting pointers from her older sister Lindsay, 16, who is now in her eighth year of 4-H.

“She helps me learn how to control the pig and tap it the right way to get it to go where I want it to go,” said Lauren, who lives in Spiceland, as Zora snorted and shuffled her way through the sawdust.

Alyssa said it’s a privilege to help mentor younger kids through 4-H, for which she shows swine and takes part in sewing and cooking contests, as well as the fashion review.

She helps both strangers and family, lending a helping hand to her 12-year-old brother Ryan and her six cousins, all of whom are in 4-H.

Amber Barks, Youth Development Extension Educator for the Hancock County program, said mentorship is a big part of what 4-H is all about.

“Mentorship is very important because you have young kids who look up to the older members, and those older members are there to help them grow. We’re teaching life skills all the way through,” she said.

From June 1-3, Barks watched 4-H members of all ages grow and learn together at an overnight camp at Shakamak State Park in Jasonville, where they learned about boating, outdoor cooking and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, among other things.

“We had 46 members from Hancock County attend,” said Barks. “It’s a great way for club members to bond and get to know one another before the fair.”

Sean Kelly, 17, who is in his ninth year of 4-H, served as a counselor at the camp.

“It’s a nice opportunity to serve as a role model for the younger kids,” said Sean, who lives in Lawrence, as he helped 4-H’ers register for the cake decorating contest Friday morning.

“If you’re a younger kid and some older kids acknowledge you and help you out at the fair, that feels pretty good,” he said.