Before 4-H, Jenna Murch-Shafer had never used a power tool.

"Now I feel comfortable using lots of different things," said Murch-Shafer, an eighth-grader at Otte Blair Middle School. "I've experienced so many new things that I wouldn't have without 4-H."

Murch-Shafer is one of four Washington County junior high students selected to the Washington County 4-H Ambassadors Program. Through the program, the junior ambassadors learn about various careers and leadership skills all while putting that new knowledge into practice with hands-on experiences.

The students assist with the Washington County Fair, help younger 4-H members show animals and help with various 4-H Extension events. But 4-H Extension Assistant Emily Bormann said its important for students to know that the program goes beyond the fair, the showing of animals and the agricultural aspects of 4-H.

"4-H is all about experiential learning," she said. "They're getting out and experiencing different career opportunities that they can have someday."

Part of the career opportunity experience came April 19, when the junior ambassadors participated in a career tour. The four students visited the Blair Chamber of Commerce, listening to Dr. Ryan Palmer of Blair and Joel Coleman of Camp Fontanelle. They also visited Great Plains Communications, Enterprise Media Group and Washington County Bank.

All four junior ambassadors said they have interest in a few careers already. Murch-Shafer likes photography and physical therapy. Courtney Smith, a Fort Calhoun eighth-grader, is interested in diesel mechanics. Norah Cloudt, an eighth-grader at Otte, wants to go into ministry, while Fort Calhoun seventh-grader Adriana Hernandez finds a career as a pseudogenic technologist intriguing.

"It's kind of like when somebody looks at genetics, can a disease be passed down," Hernandez said. "One was about cancer, and are there certain kinds of cancer that can be passed down. Is there a way genetics can keep that from happening."

While all four students have an idea of what they want to do someday, they know they're not tied to any career decision yet. Murch-Shafer said it was good to see "a day in the life" of different careers and how people got to where they are today.

"A few (career tour speakers) started doing a completely different career," she said. "It helps you, just the start of what you're going to need, some skills you'll use throughout all your jobs."

Bormann said the career tour seemed to be a positive experience for the junior ambassadors.

"They've seen a really broad variety of things career wise that they can do, so I think that's really helpful," she said. "They all have an idea of what they want to do, but hopefully this gave them some more ideas of things they might be interested in."

Hernandez said the skills and opportunities provided through 4-H could provide knowledge into adulthood.

"We probably wouldn’t have as many opportunities, leadership skills," she said.

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