By Denise Boebinger, Elli Mangan and Molly Mangan

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

Members of 4-H model their behavior to reflect that pledge. 4-H in Kentucky dates back to 1909 when the first corn club was organized. The 4-H clover symbol was adopted in 1911. Franklin County hired its first 4-H agent in 1946.

Lukas Shouse shows off one of his chickens. (Photo submitted)

There are seven program areas in 4-H. They are agriculture, family and consumer science, healthy living, communications, leadership, natural resources and science, engineering and technology (SEM). Children ages 9-18 are eligible to participate in 4-H programs and ages 5-8 in Cloverbud programs.

The Franklin County 4-H program currently offers Dog Club, Sewing Club, Cooking Club, Bee Club, Communication Club, Livestock Club, Teen Leadership Club, Garden Club and Cloverbuds.

4-H agents Austin Brewer and MacKenzie Preece, and their assistant Sam Moore, present programs in all of the elementary schools in the county. Dissecting cow eyes, making quilt blocks and shooting rockets are just a few of the activities they do with students. The agents rely on volunteers from the community to lead the various clubs that meet in the evenings at either the Franklin County Extension Office or designated farms.

Although Austin wasn’t involved in 4-H as a child he’s always been interested in programs that promote youth leadership and community engagement. Being a 4-H agent was a natural fit for him. He saw it as an opportunity to work closely with young people, empowering them to develop valuable life skills while fostering a love and respect for the environment. His favorite activity is the Environmental Education Camps.

Growing up, MacKenzie was very involved in 4-H starting when she was president of her school club, which sparked her love for leadership. Her passion for agriculture came from attending 4-H camp and livestock clubs. She has been active in all aspects of 4-H culminating in being the state’s 4-H vice president. 4-H provided the opportunity for MacKenzie to be her own individual, which is sometimes hard to achieve being a triplet.

Her deep passion for both agriculture and working with people made being a 4-H agent a perfect career choice. She loves making a positive impact on young people’s lives while promoting agriculture education and leadership skills. Her favorite 4-H activity is the Teen Summit because it is all about building leadership skills for middle schoolers while giving them the chance to participate in different activities and meeting other people from across the state.

Junior Sewing Club members show off the totes they made. (Photo submitted)

Denise Boebinger is the Franklin County 4-H Council President and also the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association (KEHA) State 4-H Youth Development Education Chair. She started the 4-H Communication Club in 2022 to help 4-H’ers prepare for speech and demonstration contests. The club also works on letter writing, storytelling, impromptu speaking and proper ways to introduce themselves.

This year the club’s big project was to write an article about 4-H in Franklin County. Club members interviewed 4-H members at various club meetings, compiled their favorite pictures and worked on the article at their club meetings.

Alicia Humphries’ favorite part of Communication Club is the confidence that she has gained while giving her speech and demonstrations. Alicia, 10, competed at the state level last year for her demonstration on “How to make Yarn Dolls.”

Georgia Mangan is working hard to make a bee hive. (Photo submitted)

Elli Mangan, 12, loved the “Story in a Bag” activity where the club was given a prompt to start a story then each member had to add to the story including the item they picked out of a bag. Molly Mangan, 9, enjoyed the impromptu speeches.

Advance and Beginner Sewing Clubs are led by Master Sewer Volunteer Debi Newman. Molly Mangan, 9, and Evy, 9, are first-year members of the beginner sewing club. Molly joined the club because she wanted to learn to sew on a sewing machine. Her favorite project this year is a scarf that she sewed on a Serger. Evy loves to sew at home and spends hours making different projects.

Hope Maglinger, 15, a member of the Advanced Sewing Club, has always liked sewing since her grandma taught her. She volunteers with the Beginning Sewing Club. 4-H is known for teaching leadership skills and providing opportunities to its senior members.

The Bee Club was formed in 2022. This club quickly grew in numbers and was split into a beginner and an advanced club. The Beginner Bee Club teaches 4-H’ers all aspects of beekeeping, such as the roles each bee has in the hive, the lifecycle of the bee and importance of bees for pollination. Georgia Mangan, 7, thinks the bee club is fun. She and her cousins Molly, 9, and Hudson, 6, put together bee hives last year and were able to install swarms last summer. They are hoping to harvest honey this year.

Club members have also enjoyed making beeswax candles and taste-testing honey. The Advance Bee Club members will try their hand at queen rearing this year and will manage a swarm trap line. Cris Petrey, 14, enjoyed assembling and painting her hive box and Kat Petrey, 14, is looking forward to catching swarms and doing hive inspections. The bee club has been awarded Kentucky 4-H Bee Ambassador title for all of its hard work and activities.

The Dog Club is designed to teach children how to train and care for their dogs using only positive reinforcement methods. They cover topics such as basic care, obedience and introduction to agility.

Ryan and Halie Shouse lead the Livestock Club. They restarted the club after it had been dormant for many years. They wanted their boys, whom they homeschool, to experience as much through 4-H as possible. The Shouses make sure all of the kids get to see and touch animals at every meeting. They try to get out to local farms as much as possible. They also incubate eggs and learn to care for baby chicks once they hatch. 4-H’ers have the opportunity to take the chicks home to raise. Lukas Shouse, 11, likes learning about different types of livestock and his younger brother Colestyn, 8, loves the animals.

Colestyn Shouse gets close up with a baby lamb while J.R. Zinner keeps watch in the background. (Photo submitted)

Suzanne Monroe is the Junior Cooking Club leader. She loves working with kids. She enjoys watching them grow and flourish and loves seeing their smiles when they eat their creations. Aubree Menefee, 7, says cooking is her passion and her favorite meeting was when they made pizza.

The Senior Cooking Club prepares more advanced dishes. Alli Calhoun, 14, joined so she could learn to cook better. Her favorite dish has been the cheesecake. Khaalyn Watson, 16, wants to be able to help her mom in the kitchen. She liked the meatball wraps they prepared. Eric Trent, 13, loves cooking and Nathaniel Minter, 14, has dreams of owning a mobile restaurant. His favorite dish to cook is eggs.

Betsy Kennedy and Mary Jacobs started the Garden Club in January. Betsy wanted to help a new generation interested in gardening because the hours she has spent with her hands in the dirt have been some of the best. Mary states that “kids inspire and teach me a thing or two.” She loves seeing their enthusiasm and quest for knowledge and its fun playing in the dirt. So far club members have made greenhouses out of milk jugs, started seeds and made flower arrangements. The club plans on planting a garden at the extension office and working with The Garden Club of Frankfort with the new pollinator garden at Thorn Hill Education Center.

Junior Cooking Club leader Suzanne Monroe discusses the nights dishes with club members. (Photo submitted)

4-Her Jackson Nance, 9, wants to learn how to plant seeds and hopes to plant a garden at home. 4-Her Aliya Simpson, 10, came with her grandmother. She likes gardening with her mom and watching flowers grow. She especially likes to grow pumpkins.

The Country ham project has expanded greatly in the past couple of years. Uncured hams are brought to the extension office on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Each 4-Her rubs and pats on a “cure” making sure all the crevices are covered. They then wrap and place it in a mesh sock and hang it in the ham barn. Hams will hang until May when they will be washed and rehung.

The hams will get their final washing right before the state fair. Each participant must give a short speech on a ham topic at the state fair also. Katherine Richardson, 11, has been competing for years in the country ham project. She wants to keep the tradition alive. Her mother’s family has a long history of curing hams. Nathan Minter, 14, participates because he needs a high salt diet for his heart condition and country hams work well with this diet.

The Teen Leadership Club is being reestablished after being dormant for many years. Their first project suggested by Ansley Roberts, 11, was to make dog treats at their meeting and then take them to the L.I.F.E. House for Animals to give while walking the dogs.

There are many opportunities for middle and high school students in 4-H. One of the middle school trips last year was to Jekyll Island in Georgia. Teens who were active during the year were given the opportunity to go during spring break. From waking up at 5 a.m. to swim in the ocean, seining in the ocean to find crabs and small fish to being knocked over by big waves. Kat Petrey, 14, Cris Petrey, 14, Tova Travis, 13, Bella Sparrow, 13, and Elli Mangan, 12, created memories that will last a lifetime.

During the summer 4-H’ers have the opportunity to go to camp. Camp is a fun week that includes activities such as swimming, high and low ropes course, crafts, field games, Legos, shooting sports, kayaking and canoeing, fishing and much more. On the third morning adventurous campers can wake up super early and go for a polar bear plunge in the pool. One of Elli Mangan’s favorite memories of camp is shooting at the archery range. She stated, “Archery is so much fun, you get to shoot cards and cups. If I hadn’t gone to camp, I wouldn’t have met some of my really good friends.”

Cami Moore designs a T-shirt during Cloverbud Club. (Photo submitted)

Junior Counselors (JC) get an opportunity to learn leadership skills while still having fun. JCs must be 16 years old. They complete a training day before camp and is assigned to help the adult counselor in a cabin. Most young campers can’t wait until their turn to be a JC.

For Cloverbuds they offer a shorter three-day camp. All the same activities are introduced. Not only does Cloverbud Camp give the opportunity for younger children to go to camp, it also allows middle schoolers to be junior counselors. Elli Mangan, 12, has been a junior counselor and had a lot of fun while learning leadership skills and responsibilities.

“I remember going to Cloverbud Camp my first time and being super nervous and then after getting there my nerves disappeared. In the wise words of Miley Cyrus, ‘The butterflies fly away’ and that’s how I felt as soon as I got to camp.”

4-H also offers project days during the summer to prepare for the Franklin County Fair. So far this year plans are being made for project days that involve wire art, 3-D printing, terrariums and cupcake wars.

Please contact the extension office at 502-695-9035 for specific dates and times for clubs. You can also check out the Franklin County 4-H Facebook page or on the web at

Molly Mangan works on her tote bag project in Sewing Club. (Photo submitted)
Cris and Kat Petrey paint bee hive boxes during Senior Bee Club. (Photo submitted)
Katherine Richardson puts cure on a country ham. (Photo submitted)
Carson and Cayden Driskell plant seeds during Garden Club. (Photo submitted)
Livestock Club leader Halie Shouse shows members newly hatched chickens. (Photo submitted)