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South County 4-Hers host South Dakota peers
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A long-standing 4-H tradition continues in the coming week with a group of South County 4-H members hosting several of their counterparts from South Dakota.

Ten 4-Hers from Meade County in South Dakota will be “spending a full week with us seeing the sights and learning about life in the Central Valley,” said Cara B. Huston, a Calla 4-H parent and a third-generation club member

The South Dakota visitors, who range in age from 14 to 19, plus two chaperones will be in the area from July 15 to July 21.

A barbecue and potluck in Escalon is being planned for Sunday, July 15, to welcome the group. The rest of their itinerary will include visits to San Francisco, Big Trees, Santa Cruz plus tours of various agricultural facilities including a dairy in Lodi and a nursery.

A send-off party in French Camp is planned on Friday, July 20, for the South Dakota guests.

The visit is part of the County 4-H Domestic Exchange project which provides a venue for club members to “stay with people for a week and learn about agriculture in the state and about how people live, the differences in cultures and households and so forth,” explained Huston whose sister, Sharie Ware, also grew up in 4-H. Their mother, Mary Freer, who went to the now-defunct Summer Home School in Manteca, and lives in Manteca, was also active in 4-H.

An ambassadorship program, the 4-H Exchange is a two-year project.

“Some of our kids went to South Dakota last summer,” so this year, it’s the South Dakota group’s turn to come and visit the Central Valley, Huston said.

“Our kids – four from Manteca, two from Escalon, and three from Stockton – visited South Dakota last summer and were shown the sights including Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, among others, while learning about life in South Dakota from their hose families. This year, we have the honor of hosting South Dakota and showing them what a wonderful and bountiful state we have,” she said.

Huston’s daughter McKenzie, 17, who will be a senior in August at East Union, took part in the exchange program last summer. Son James, 15, who will be a Lancer sophomore at the coming school opening, is also now participating in the exchange program.

“This will be his first two-year exchange. They have to be 14 before they can travel,” explained Huston.

South Dakota is just one of the states in the country with 4-H groups that participate in the ambassadorship program, she said. There are also multiple countries with similar clubs that take part, she said.

San Joaquin County, in the past few years, has had exchanges with groups from Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Minnesota besides South Dakota, Huston said.

4-H members who take part in the exchange project raise the funds that they need for the program.

“The kids from each group fund-raise constantly to cover expenses for hosting and traveling, and parents do not pay their expenses. (The children) earn the money and so are always very appreciative of any public exposure that may open opportunities for them,” Huston added.

Among the slew of fund-raisers that they have are food booths at various events, horse shows, selling candy bars, and selling potted poinsettias during the Christmas season.

“That’s a big fund-raiser,” she said of their holiday fund-raising. The Stockton Asparagus Festival where they have a food booth is “one of our biggest fund-raisers,” Huston said.

The 4-H Domestic Exchange project is just one of a whole plethora of activities offered to 4-H members.

“What’s really cool about 4-H is that the projects we can do are only limited by the leaders that we have – from arts and crafts to animals projects, computers or photography projects – anything you can think of that you can teach to the youth,” said Huston.

The 4-H program goes way back in the early 1900s, so it’s been around for a long time, she said. It started out as a vocational educational program, about the same time as FFA, and initially started working with the university cooperative extension program.