Well over 2,000 teenagers and children from across the state used noisemakers, blew into vuvuzelas and otherwise cheered on dozens of scholarship recipients inside Reed Arena at a Tuesday evening general assembly during the annual Texas 4-H Roundup, the state convention and competition that awards about $2.4 million in scholarships.
The Texas 4-H Roundup has been on the campus of Texas A&M University since 1946; the four-day event, which began Monday and runs through Thursday night, is the culmination of the 4-H year, organizers and participants say. Students from third through 12th grade travel from as far as Dalhart, Brownsville and El Paso to participate in a broad array of sessions and, for older students, competitions.
Courtney Dodd, assistant agency director and the program leader for the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program, said that 4-H participants have been working toward this event for several months.
Dodd, who participated in 4-H for 10 years as a child, said “it made me who I am today,” described the program as “a youth development organization that promotes and teaches youth leadership and life skills.”
“They learn how to serve their community, and they do all of that through projects that they participate in, whether it’s raising livestock or learning how to cook or learning to write and give a speech, horticulture, robotics and more,” she added.
The myriad events taking place during the four-day event include a fashion show, a robotics challenge, livestock and meat judging, archery and more. Many of the contests during the event are state-level competitions for high school age 4-H members that require teams or individuals who qualify at the county or district level. Other events are invitationals.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension 4-H specialist and roundup coordinator Jana Barrett said the event allows young people from across Texas opportunities to have new, formative experiences and work hard to achieve success in their chosen fields.
“No matter where you’re coming from, you’re going to gain something,” Barrett said. “What everybody gets out of this will be different, but in the end, we feel like they’re making memories, meeting friends from across the state of like interests and learning about new things. People out in the Panhandle have a much different world from people on the coast, and this brings all those kids together.”
Representatives from various academic departments at colleges and universities — including Blinn College, Texas Tech University and Tarleton State University – had tables and representatives set up in the Reed Arena concourse.
Devin Burton, 18, of Callahan County near Abilene is in the midst of his final week at the annual 4-H convention and contest. He has been part of 4-H for about five years, he said, and his areas of focus are robotics, mohair and wildlife.
“It’s family oriented, and growing up in 4-H, you learn a lot,” Burton said. “It teaches you life lessons and skills that school doesn’t teach you and that you may not learn at home. Being in 4-H in a large county, you get to make new friends, meet new people and learn about their lives.”
Burton will attend West Texas A&M University in the fall, study animal science and veterinary medicine and pursue service in the Army.
“I hope to carry memories and all the things I’ve learned in my time in 4-H that will help me in the near future,” he said.
Susan Ballabina, deputy vice chancellor for agriculture and life sciences at A&M, addressed the boisterous assembly Tuesday evening.
“Good luck, have fun and make your mark,” Ballabina encouraged the age-diverse group of participants. “To all the ‘4H-ers’ here this evening, we know how hard you’ve worked throughout the year.”
Including parents, guardians and participants, the 4-H event brings more than 4,000 people to the Bryan-College Station area.
The Texas State 4-H Horse Show will be at the Brazos County Expo Complex annually for five years beginning July 21-27 after a 35-year run in Abilene. The expo won a bid to host the show through 2023.