Olathe Northwest senior Katie Connor could be one of the most well-rounded teenagers you may ever meet. Connor doesn’t just excel in cross-country for her high school, she’s also a pretty good photographer. And she bakes. And she trains and shows dogs. What’s her secret? For the last 10 years, she’s been honing all of these skills through her involvement with Johnson County 4-H.
The 18-year old Lenexan currently holds the title of Miss 4-H. As part of her reign, she is responsible for representing the Johnson County 4-H program at community events.
For Connor, 4-H has been a way of life since she was young.
“We went to the Johnson County Fair in Gardner when I was 6 years old and I watched the dog show,” Connor said. “I think my mom was just hoping I would learn to train the dogs, so she got me involved in 4-H.”
While 4-H is typically popular with kids from smaller, rural towns, Connor says 4-H has a lot to offer kids from bigger cities as well. Johnson County has more than 600 4-H members and 300 volunteers.
Officials with the Johnson County 4-H program are celebrating National 4-H week this week. They say students like Connor are well-equipped to meet their future goals because of their involvement with the program. They say 4-H helps kids develop five important life skills including a positive self-concept, an inquiring mind, a concern for the community, healthy interpersonal relationships and sound decision making.
“Johnson County 4-H’ers gain valuable lifelong skills like public speaking and teamwork through their 4-H project experiences,” Kaitlyn Peine, 4-H/Youth Development agent said. “I frequently receive comments from teachers on 4-H’ers and their ability to speak in front of a group of people.”
Even though Connor estimates she’s one of only three kids in her large, suburban high school to be involved in 4-H, she wouldn’t trade the experiences she’s had for anything. Connor has dabbled in pretty much everything from art to animals over the past 10 years. She’s also helped plan statewide 4-H events, held a variety of positions such as secretary and treasurer and even traveled to Topeka to work with state legislators.
Connor says her favorite 4-H programs are fashion review and showing dogs. But she says if people think that being involved in 4-H means you only work with animals, they should think again.
“Most people think that you have to live on a farm or raise animals in order to be involved in 4-H,” Connor said. “But you can live in the city and try art and cooking or something else and be just as involved. There are such a variety of things and opportunities.”
Many programs are available through Johnson County 4-H, including computers, rocketry, science and technology, dogs, rabbits, foods, crafts and clothing.
Connor is confident that the skills she’s learned through 4-H will help her meet her goals after high school graduation. She plans on going to college and majoring in psychology with a minor in biology. Her ultimate goal is to become a clinical psychologist.
“Being involved in 4-H has made me a leader,” Connor said. “And I’ve met a variety of people and gained knowledge about things I never would have tried.”