Kristopher Shramek.jpg

How do I write a short story about 4-H when it covers most of my 16 years of life? I really do not remember life outside 4-H. My oldest sister was 16 when I was born, and she had already been in 4-H for 8 years. I have 2 other older siblings that followed suit. So, I started going to meetings in a carseat, although I do not remember it. I do remember fair time and how our dining room table was always covered with projects. It seemed like we never ate at the table until the projects got entered at the fair! It is still like that today except that only half the table is covered because I’m the only 4-H’er still at home.

I am Kristopher Shramek. I’m a 16 year-old member of the Spring Branch Helping Hands 4-H Club. I was the treasurer of our club this past year. I can hardly believe that I am beginning my junior year of high school at TBHS and my 10th year as a 4-H member. The past 9 years do not include the 3 years that I was in Clover Kids. I am an Honor Roll student, member of the National Honor Society, Student Council, Part of the TBHS Showchoir Express, District Choir, as well as active in District ensemble competitions and the musical productions at TBHS.

I live on my family farm in Silex, MO. My family owns, rents and share crops farm ground in which we plant and harvest wheat, corn, and soy beans. We also grow and bale hay mainly to feed the cattle we raise. Although we raise cattle, my siblings and I have always shown swine in 4-H because my dad and grandfather raised hogs until 1999 so the farm is set up for a swine operation.

My 4-H projects include archery, swine, photography, foods, golf, leadership, and financial literacy. I have also been a member of the Lincoln County 4-H Teen Leader for the past 3 years. This past year I served as the Social Chairman planning the clubs activities like ICombat, touring the city looking at Christmas lights, and getting ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery as well as the escape room, Escape on Main. Teen Leaders are 13-18 year old 4-H members from Lincoln County that are members of any of the 12 4-H clubs in our county. We meet once a month to plan leadership activities, fundraisers, social activities and community service. It is a way for older 4-H’ers to connect and become more involved.

I have found that as I get older, my schedule gets busier and it get harder to squeeze in the meetings needed for everything. Besides my schooling and extracurricular activities, I spent the summer working for Down’s Drywall. My mom was the leader for several of my 4-H project areas this year. Lucky for me, I was the only one enrolled in several of those projects. My mom could accommodate my schedule easier and was able to help me get the 6 hours of meeting time in required for each project area to show at the fair. I missed meeting with other 

4-H’ers but it is just the way it turned out this year.

Out of my 7 projects, I have been in archery and swine since the beginning. I have always liked these 2 projects. My archery leader is very kind and patient. I just wish practice times were easier for me to get to. I may not use archery every day in my life because I do not hunt, I only target shoot. 

But I do believe I have learned some lifelong skills along the way like patience, obedience, listening, being alert to what is going on around you, shooting sports safety on the range and at home. I have also learned to be responsible for my equipment, responsible for paperwork to meet deadlines, and how to mentor younger members.

My swine project is always fun. You get to purchase these cute little pigs in March and weigh them in. You feed, water and walk these pigs daily preparing them for the swine show at the fair. Somedays they can be impossible. Somedays they aren’t. Somedays you barely have time just to feed and water them. I like the time spent at the barn at the fair  with fellow hog showers. It feels good when you come out of the show ring with at least a blue ribbon. The livestock auction is always a great thing. You always have the thought of “what if no one bids on your hog?” But they always do! Our community is extremely generous! This year I signed up as the Teen Leader for Swine Project. This project has taught me a lot of responsibility, how to keep hog record regarding medications, weight, feed, and other expenses. It is also the reason my parents set up a savings account for me. Now I have a checking account and debit card.

Some other other projects I take are photography, foods, financial literacy, and leadership. I can use things I learn from these projects in my everyday life from now on. Some will be very useful as I leave home and live on my own. Some will be helpful as I continue on my educational journey and as I enter the workforce.

Golf is a new project this year. I have tried several team sports over the years like baseball, soccer, and basketball. I thought it would be good to try an individual sport like golf. Although some may say golf is a game more than a sport because it doesn’t require rigorous physical activity it still requires much training. I think it is a sport I could enjoy the rest of my life. This year I did purchase a beginning set of clubs, but I have not really golfed yet. I spent my 6 hours or so of project meeting time learning about the sport. I learned the rules, terminology and about golf etiquette. 

I learned the parts of a golf course and about golf clubs. My plan is to find someone that knows how to golf to take me to a golf course and teach me next year. My mom who was my project leader has never golfed!

4-H is a lot about 4-H projects and the fair but that is not all of it. We have monthly meetings where 4-H members have opportunities to report on their project meetings and do demonstrations of what they have learned. 4-H’ers can be nominated and voted in as officers with very specific duties and responsibilities. This is a great confidence builder and helps you improve you public speaking abilities. It also helps you gain leadership skills, team building skills, and the ability to work with others. We also have fun events like the fall outing, Christmas Caroling and Christmas party, Swimming and Pizza party. We incorporate at each meeting songs and games as well as refreshments.

One specific opportunity in 4-H that is close to my heart is community service. I have been given the opportunity to help many people by participating in the annual bellringing campaign for the Salvation Army, our annual blood drive for the American Red Cross, as well as the Relay for Life of Lincoln County for the American Cancer Society. I was the team captain the last 2 years for Team 4-H! I also participate with my club in 2 annual state 4-H programs. One is Million Trees in which we plant 1 tree/member each year to help the environment. The other is MOVE across Missouri in which we tract our individual physical activity from February 1st to April 30th. It is a great way to track how much physical activity we do compared to others and helps us to set higher goals and improve our health. I have won top individual for our county once and our team has won 1st place in our county each year since it began.

We do other community service activities like weeding and planting flowers at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds, Weeding LCCOA, setting up tables at vendor fairs at LCCOA, helping throw colored powder for the 5K Color Run for LCCOA. I have run in their Color Run the last 2 years and won 2nd place in my age category. We collected food items for the Buddy Bags for Lincoln County R-3 School District at our Christmas Party. We also collected hats and gloves for Mari’s Warm Hearts and Hands in memory of my friend and former 4-H’er Mari Lee Becker.

All the 4-H curriculum and project work, as well as our community service helps us to gain a better understanding of the world around us and the people we encounter every day. It also teaches us how to relate and benefit from them all.

If you think you could benefit from 4-H and you are age 8-18, enroll today. You can stop by or call Rhonda Shafer, 4-H Youth Specialist, at University of Missouri Extension Office, 880 College Street, Troy, MO 636-528-4613.