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Youthful Dreams Coming True at 4-H State Congress

It is a dream that began when Shu Che joined 4-H in the fifth grade. And it's about to come true.

She's headed to Atlanta for State 4-H Congress.

"I'm very excited," said Che, a student at Morrow High School.

Che will compete against 4-H'ers from across Georgia in the performing arts (instrumental) project. That's usually one of the largest, most hotly contested project areas. She will play two pieces on the flute.

"This summer I'm a counselor at Jekyll Island 4-H camp," she said. "I've been so busy, but I make time to practice. The camping hours are around the clock, but I find time to go over sections of my pieces and what I need to work on."

Che competed several other times at District Project Achievement, the second level of competition, but not in performing arts. She tried bicycle safety and general recreation first. Winning first place at DPA earns a 4-H'er the right to attend State Congress.

"This was my first year as a senior 4-H'er to compete (in performing arts)," she said. "I was really surprised I placed at all."

More than 300 4-H'ers from across the state will vie for state winners' ribbons in 49 project areas at the Congress, Aug. 12-15 at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Atlanta.

The 4-H'ers who finish on top at State Congress will head for the National 4-H Congress in Memphis, Tenn., Nov. 29 through Dec. 4.

Che is hoping that with a little help from Mozart and Kennan, she will be one of them.

"Since I'm a high school senior, this is my last chance to win," she said. "I hope to win so I know I will have accomplished something great."

State winners become members of the Georgia Master 4-H Club. "Mastering is one of the highest honors to me," Che said. "Then I know I have achieved the next step."

The achievement is not only great for the 4-H'ers, but also for the Extension Service county agents who helped them get there. Che's Clayton County agent, Laura Garrett, has several 4-H'ers attending State Congress.

"I'm really proud," Garrett said. "Shu really did it herself. She got her record book together and just did it."

Each competitor must prepare a portfolio-type record of their work, in addition to a demonstration, in the project area. The portfolio and an interview based on it count half of the competition score.

After the competition, the 4-H'ers go on corporate tours to meet Atlanta business leaders in their project areas. They also meet key state government officials.

"State 4-H Congress is a chance for us to showcase the outstanding youth we're working with in Georgia 4-H," said Dan Aamoth, extension 4- H specialist and Congress coordinator.

"This also gives us the opportunity to expose them to the business community and state leaders, and to send them on their way as better prepared young adults," he said.

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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