Way Out West 4-H Club Grows Leaders

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Way Out West 4-H Club volunteer leaders Karin Kinney, center, and Chris Redding, right, watch Kayton Zwingman, the club's secretary and news reporter, read minutes she recorded from the last meeting. All pictured are from Elgin.

By Jane Schuchardt 

Special to The Elgin Review 

The Way Out West Club, 27 years strong this fall, is on-the-ground, local proof that  4-H, the largest youth development organization in the United States, works. 

February is Nebraska 4-H month. Cruise down main in Elgin and revel at the green four-leaf clovers displayed prominently on flags attached to the light poles. Thanks to an anonymous donor, the Way Out West Club made that happen.

Then attend a club meeting, such as the one this past Sunday at Park Center Congregational Church west of Elgin on Highway 70, and hear how Elgin’s Kayton Zwingman, turning 15 soon, extemporaneously responds to a question about what the four H’s on the clover, also the themes of the 4-H pledge, mean to her –

I pledge my head to clearer thinking. “Make good decisions to benefit others . . . be a leader,” Zwingman said. 

My heart to greater loyalty. “Be ethical with all you do and kind-hearted to everyone,” she continued without pause. 

My hands to larger service. “Pick up trash (the club does this along a stretch of Highway 70 a couple times a year), put up 4-H flags in Elgin, help others, volunteer,” she said. 

And my health to better living. Then she concluded bluntly, “Don’t make stupid decisions; keep yourself healthy.” 

The pledge wraps up with for my club, my community, my country, and my world. 

4-H is offered through the National Cooperative Extension System, established by Congress in 1914 as a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, land-grant universities (University of Nebraska-Lincoln here), and county governments (Nebraska has 93 counties including Antelope County). Funding comes from federal, state, and local governments along with federal-level partnerships brokered through the National 4-H Council, more at the state level through the Nebraska 4-H Foundation, and other philanthropy. 

Here locally, Way Out West, one of five 4-H clubs in Antelope County embraced a robust membership of 54 in 2022. Enrollment for this year is underway now. Details are available at the Antelope County Extension Office at the courthouse in Neligh, phone 402-887-5414, or on the web at www.antelope.unl.edu. Check out the Way Out West display at the Antelope County 4-H Open House, 3:00-5:00 pm, Sunday, March 19 in the ag building at the county fairgrounds. 

Pride gushes from Way Out West’s two volunteer leaders, both from Elgin, Chris Redding and Karin Kinney. Redding helped launch the club in the fall of 1996 with Merry Sprout, because, as tears welled up in her eyes, “We believe in green,” she said, and she wanted her two daughters, Paige and Carlie, to be involved. Strong adult 4-H volunteerism goes back a couple generations in her family, so it’s in her genes. 

“Yep, I get really emotional,” Chris admitted. “I just love seeing these kids grow up.” 

Ditto from Kinney who replaced Sprout as an adult leader about 12 years ago. As an accomplished seamstress, she lamented that sewing was a dying art and said “the best way to teach kids (lifelong skills) is through 4-H.”

And, best of all, “it’s a family affair,” she continued, giving credit to the high level of dedicated parental involvement. Both spewed one example after another of multi-generational membership, and the success of confident and capable former 4-H members. 

For the rest of the story, turn to this week’s Elgin Review.

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4-H often is a multi-generational endeavor. Kyle Childers (left), Elgin, grew up as a member of Way Out West 4-H Club. Now his children, Brecken (c) and Owen (r) are all in.