Ashley Harris has a yard full of farm animals she loves and learns from. They might even be pointing out her career path.
Brandon Lannom is a self-described "artsy-craftsy" type. His knack for decor has brightened his parents' home in Waterloo.
Monroe County 4-H offers both youngsters an outlet for growth and creativity.
The county's 13 established and two new clubs along with clubs across the state are commemorating 4-H Week through Saturday.
"I was really into woodworking, but I've gotten away from that," Lannon, a freshman starting his seventh year of 4-H, said. "This year, I'm going to be working on some pillows. Any kind of creative project that you can share and explain, I enjoy."
"I've been active four years," Harris said. "And I've done lots of other things besides animal projects. But I am working on a veterinary science project."
Susan Hayden, Monroe County's University of Illinois Extension 4-H leader the past 14 years, said "that's what-to me-is so valuable about 4-H."
"It adds a dimension to education that the schools alone can't provide," Hayden said. "They get to choose their own projects and become 'experts' and even leaders."
There are more than 40 categories of Illinois 4-H projects and nearly three times as many subcategories ranging from forestry to childcare to wildlife conservation and much more.
This week, clubs will be recruiting new members for the 4-H year, which runs Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.
"4-H Week is when the clubs promote their activities and some do their service projects," Hayden said. "In the past, clubs have done recycling, food drives, hosted parties, held petting zoos."
Harris and Lannon agree the most important aspect of 4-H is the interpersonal skills learned.
"It's learning how to work with others-the adult leaders and other kids," Lannon said. "You can improve your public speaking and you become more confident."
"You get to meet and work with kids from other schools who you wouldn't get a chance to hang out with otherwise," Harris said.