Not many people have built robots and raised lambs.
But 13-year-old Rachel Hale has done both, and in some ways, the two activities aren't all that dissimilar, said the Herriman teen.
"They all had the same ethics," said Rachel, a member of 4-H. "You learned the same things: teamwork, working with others and learning from others."
They're skills Utah 4-H has been working to instill in kids for a century, and this week, Utah State University will celebrate the organization's 100th anniversary here. The club began in 1902 and spread to Utah in 1912.
Much has changed in the 100 years since 4-H sprouted in Utah. The state's population has mushroomed and become more city-centered. Cars have replaced horses. Women earned the right to vote and have shattered stereotypes. And, in some ways, Utah 4-H has changed with the times, offering more modern activities, such as robotics, global positioning systems and filmmaking, to kids in third through 12th grades.
In other ways, however, the group has remained the same.
"Instead of doing livestock they may be doing filmmaking, but they'll learn the same skills, responsibility, dependability, teamwork, problem solving, as â¦ their parents did," said Kevin Kesler, director of 4-H and youth programs at Utah State University, which hosts the program here. "Our goal is to have them develop those life skills."
Kesler has been a part of 4-H for about 45 of his 54 years.
He's one of many Utahns who've seen 4-H evolve over the decades into an organization that now boasts about 36,000 students in 4-H clubs and more than 10,000 adult leaders in Utah.
A program takes root • 4-H began as a way to introduce agricultural technologies to farmers through their kids, Kesler said. Universities began developing technologies but found farmers were reluctant to adopt them. 4-H clubs exposed kids to the technologies, then the kids got their parents on board.
Since then, the state's population has become much more urban, but Kesler said demand for 4-H programs continues to be huge. He said the biggest challenge is finding enough volunteers to lead clubs.
"We have never talked to kids and told them what 4-H does, and the kids haven't wanted to be in it," Kesler said.
Rachel's mother, NiCole Hale, became a leader partly to fill that need. She said she knew nothing about robotics before she started the club in which her children participate. All she knew was that her son, who had never really been interested in sports, was fascinated by robots. When Hale realized there were no robotics clubs close to home, she began her own.
"I don't think I could have been a coach without the 4-H program behind me because that provided an instant network for me to draw on and a good support group of coaches and leaders to help," Hale said. "I grew in so many ways."
In many ways, 4-H has always been a family-centered organization. In Utah, 4-H has a place in many family trees.
Stacie Lyman, 18, said her mother, who was in 4-H as a student, got her and her siblings involved. Lyman, who just graduated from Bingham High School, is now a 4-H State Ambassador, a prestigious leadership position within the group for which only a handful of Utah students are chosen each year.
Lyman plans to go to Utah State University in the spring, with the help of a 4-H scholarship, to study family consumer sciences and human development.
She said the life skills she's learned in 4-H have been invaluable.
"When I was younger, I was really shy," Lyman said. "I'd be the one sitting in the back and wouldn't really raise my hand. But with all the leadership experiences I've had â¦ it's helped me plan things, gain self-confidence and talk in front of crowds."
She said she's eager to now try out those skills in the adult world.
Learning and teaching • Peggy Black, who's been a 4-H leader over the years, has seen five generations of her family participate.
Black's mother, who grew up on a farm in what's now Draper, began the tradition, joining 4-H in the 1930s, she said. Utah's 4-H gave her mother an opportunity to sew, cook and meet people from other areas. Black's grandmother also worked as a club leader.
Black, now 61, also joined as a child. And when Black grew up and had her own nine children, most of them joined as well.
Now, about half of Black's 18 grandchildren are 4-H'ers, including in a club the West Jordan grandmother leads.
Black said it's no accident that more than half a dozen of her family members became teachers, given the organization's focus on learning and teaching skills.
"The people in 4-H are so willing to share," Black said, "so if I need to know something or don't have the skills in an area that I need to have an experience in, there's a 4-H'er somewhere who knows how to do that and is willing to teach me and then I can teach other people."
She said she's also enjoyed, over the years, watching children grow and gain confidence through 4-H, regardless of the activity.
Black's seen it in her own family.
Years ago, she said, one of her granddaughters wanted to take part in a demonstration contest, but because the girl had a learning disability, her mother was wary. Her mother didn't want to see her laughed at or hurt.
"I said, '4-H isn't like that,' " Black said. "4-H is a program where you can go and do your best."
Black worked with her granddaughter to make it happen.
Ultimately, the girl demonstrated how to make an ice cream dessert.
She did it on her own, and she won a blue ribbon.
A century of Utah 4-H
Utah State University will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Utah 4-H on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Families are encouraged to go to the free celebration Saturday, July 14, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the quad at Utah State University in Logan, where there will be contests, bounce houses, vendor booths and games. For more information go to utah4h.org.