Jackson County 4-H is thriving.

We have 70 active members, eight clubs and a variety of summer options. We offer diverse activities in topics such as cooking, science, event planning, fundraising, creativity, public speaking, raising animals, mountain heritage, healthy living and community service.

The Jackson County 4-H priorities include 1) leadership, 2) getting outdoors and 3) building self-confidence. We currently have 28 members of the teenage Youth Leadership Council and 14 youth ages 8-15 will be attending 4-H summer camp in June.

Research shows that “a sense of belonging” is valuable for children.

Being part of an ongoing 4-H club where children can develop close friendships, learn new things and have fun provides this positive way to be part of a group. 4-H is free, and we accept new members for most clubs throughout the year.

Cloverbuds (ages 5-8) meets the first and third Wednesday of each month, 3:45-5 p.m.

The focus is hands-on activities for younger children and families focused on basic skills such as cooking, gardening, 4-H presentations, creativity and community service.

Explorers Club (ages 9-13) meets the second and fourth Monday of each month, 3:30-5 p.m.

The focus is hands-on exploration of science, leadership, 4-H presentations and self-confidence building.

Youth Leadership Council (ages 14-18) meets the first and third Sunday of each month, 5:45-7:30 p.m. The focus is on learning leadership skills through fundraising, administering grants for youth-led projects, community service and hosting the annual Spring into Summer festival.

Horse Club (all ages) meets one Saturday each month, 10:30 a.m.-noon. The focus on this non-riding club offers an opportunity to learn about all aspects of horse care and riding styles. Exposure to horses is provided at Balsam Mountain Preserve Equestrian Center. Horse Bowl, hippology, presentations and art contests are also part of this club.

Livestock Club (all ages) meets the second and third Tuesday of each month, 4-5:30 p.m. The focus is support and encouragement for youth and families to raise livestock. Activities include showing animals, skillathon and activities for learning about raising goats, chickens, cows, pigs, sheep and more. You do not need to own an animal to be involved.

Maker Club (ages 5-10) meets the fourth Wednesday of each month, 3:45-5 p.m.

The focus is on a place for encouraging creativity and exploration. Technological and art materials are set out and children are encouraged to build towers, sculptures, cars, electric circuits and more.

Hiking Club (ages 5-10) meets the first Saturday and second Wednesday of each month, 3:45-5 p.m. The focus is on spending time outdoors with other families getting some exercise, learning new trails and creating new friendships.

Archery Club (ages 9-18). Meetings to be determined.

Focus: Basic archery skills for target shooting.

In addition to all of these ongoing clubs we also encourage youth to preserve their mountain heritage through the Mountain Youth Talent Contest. This is an opportunity to perform traditional Appalachian music, storytelling, and dance on stage before an audience. The first contest of the year will be at Greening Up the Mountains in Sylva on April 28.

For more information, to volunteer, or to contribute funds to support the 4-H program, contact Heather Gordon, 4-H agent at 586-4009 or heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.

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The Jackson County Horse Bowl Team took home second place at the District Competition. They headed to State Competition on March 3 in Raleigh. This contest consists of buzzing in to answer verbal questions all about horse breeds, diseases, equipment and riding styles.