Somervell County 4-H Club is gearing up for a new year.

From animal projects that take the stage at the Somervell County Youth Fair and major shows across the state to food, fashion and public speaking, there are many opportunities available to local youth.

While seasoned club members and some newcomers are already putting in hours with their steers, lambs and goats, the local club is working to spread the word about everything 4-H has to offer.

The 4-H Open House and Hotdog Dinner, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9 at Wheeler Branch Reservoir pavilion, will provide families of prospective members information on club programs. And returning 4-Hers will be on hand to share their experiences.

At the helm of Somervell County 4-H are two extension agents – Shawn Davis, who heads up livestock and agriculture-related programs, and Brianne Langdon, director of family and consumer sciences. Both leaders are busy at promoting existing programs while encouraging students to explore new opportunities.

“We have a project or group for just about anything a kid can dream up,” Langdon said. “When people hear ‘4-H’ they automatically think about livestock, but we also do have programs for students who are interested in cooking and public speaking, as well as projects related to photography, nutrition and fashion.”

Langdon said those programs are great for students who may not have the resources to take on an animal project but are interested in developing leadership skills and tackling their fears.

“In public speaking, club members can develop presentations around anything that interests them,” Langdon said. “We have had a variety of presentations – from the history of Barbie to how to sharpen a knife. It is open to whatever interests kids, and public speaking is a good way for them to overcome their fear of talking in front of a group – something they will have to do more frequently as they advance toward high school, college and their future careers. At public speaking events, kids get to talk about their interests and answer questions from judges.”

“We’ve redesigned our program to give the kids more opportunities,” Davis agreed. “We look for our 4-H program to be a lot of fun this year with many more activities. There are a lot more things outside of showing animals, such as a variety of leadership and community service activities.”

Exploring potential careers has become a big part of 4-H. The club gives students an outlet for learning more about a future agriculture, tips that will help manage a household budget and plan healthy meals, but it also provides an avenue for exploring science and robotics and veterinary sciences.

“If there is a desire to explore, we will find a way to get it done,” Langdon said, referring to the possibility for the addition of more local programs.

But there are still plenty of opportunities for students focused on agriculture and other traditional programs. In Somervell County, shooting sports and horse judging are gaining popularity.

While local 4-H participation is on the rise, the outlook hasn’t always been so positive.

“I got here in October (of 2012) with the school year already underway, so we went through kind of a rebuilding phase this last year,” Davis said. “Participation was down due to a turnover of (extension) agents, but I see a substantial increase coming. That’s a big goal of ours.”

Growth of the program is apparent within and outside of Glen Rose ISD. An additional 4-H Club is being added just up the road at North Central Texas Academy, where students work on projects to bring to county shows and contests, advancing to district and state competitions.

Still, the local agents hope to see more growth this year, and the Sept. 9 open house was organized with that in mind. The event is free to all interested parties, and Langdon said community members are a big part of the equation. She said volunteers and adult leaders are also encouraged to sign up to bring additional leadership and a greater variety of skills and interests to the program.

“4-H is good for the whole family and community,” Langdon said, adding that the club is open to students in third-twelfth grades.

Many former and current members will attest to the fact that dedication to the program offers an array of awards, including potential college scholarships for competitors. Those awards are available to livestock entrants, but scholarships of up to $10,000 are also awarded to food and art project champions at major shows.

“We are encouraging students to enroll in 4-H now so that when they get to high school, they have the experience and involvement behind them,” Langdon said.

For more information, call Langdon or Davis at (254) 897-2809.