Slidell/Greenwood 4-H member Shelby Vanover specializes in broiler chickens, but when he chose this project six years ago, he had no idea it would lead him from Wise County to Washington, D.C.
Vanover’s 2012-2013 4-H poultry recordbook won first place in state, earning him the opportunity to attend the Texas 4-H Leadership Conference in the nation’s capital. He and 29 other 4-Hers left Friday for a five-day trip that was to include a day on Capitol Hill, cultural events and a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Vanover, who turned 16 Wednesday, wants to go into aerospace engineering and said he hoped they also visited the National Air and Space Museum.
“All my hard work has paid off,” he said. “I’ve been writing this story for five or six years now.”
Vanover joined 4-H in 2007 and has raised broilers and completed a recordbook every year since.
It’s a tedious process.
According to the Texas 4-H website, members complete recordbooks to develop the skills necessary to set goals, work toward achieving those goals, reflect on their experiences and set new goals for themselves. The website says the process also helps teach 4-Hers how to complete quality academic scholarship applications.
The recordbook includes two main parts: the 4-Her’s personal story, which tells of his or her experience and involvement in 4-H, and an activities section that outlines specific events, leadership roles, community service and other activities.
It’s a time-consuming process that requires great attention to detail.
“It’s the least favorite thing, next to public speaking, that we challenge kids with in 4-H,” said Slidell/Greenwood club leader Kim Dunlap. “In fact, one of the first things Shelby said (after learning he won state) was ‘does that mean I never have to do one again?’”
Dunlap said Vanover will submit another recordbook in 2014, but it has to be in a different category.
The Slidell sophomore participates in a variety of 4-H projects so he has several from which to choose.
“Shelby is a gifted kid. He thinks in a different realm, and once he makes his mind up he’s going to do something, he’ll work toward it,” said Dunlap. “He’s a guy who has stuck with it.”
The Slidell sophomore lives on his family’s farm near Krum with his parents, Cody and Karen Vanover, and younger brothers Brady and Easton.
He started a poultry project because he wanted to “see little chicks grow up.”
“And I like fried chicken, so there was that part of it, too,” he said.
He said raising broilers has been harder than he anticipated, but he won grand champion three years ago. He also participates in Nutrition Quiz Bowl, Food Challenge and Consumer Decision Making and has health and science projects. This is in addition to his school activities, including basketball, track, cross country, golf and UIL academic events.
“Shelby is a one-of-a-kind 4-Her,” said Tanya Davis, Wise County Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences. “He’s always willing to try new projects and go out on his own and search for information. He’s open to suggestions and guidance, a teachable, coachable kid. Adults love to work with Shelby.”
The last Wise County 4-Her to have a first-place state recordbook was Dunlap’s son, Jake, in 2005. His book was also in the poultry category.
“It’s a very small number of people who get to do this,” she said. “There’s only 30 kids from across the state, and when you think about how many members there are in 4-H, it gets to be a pretty elite group.”
Perhaps, Vanover described it best.
“Everywhere I go [with 4-H events], there are always good people,” he said. “The best and the brightest. It draws a really good crowd.”