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Youth participate in first state 4-H Home Ec School presented by NMSU Extension Service

LOS LUNAS - 4-H members honed their cooking and sewing skills in the first 4-H Home Ec School held at Valencia High School in Los Lunas on March 20-22.

Top: Shelly Porter, Colfax County home economist, shows 4-H members how to make banana-nut bread at the first New Mexico 4-H Home Ec School on March 21 at Valencia High School in Los Lunas. Twenty-two youth learned to make cookies and brownies as well as dog biscuits, a service project that concluded the two-day school. Bottom: 4-H member Heather Matchulat of San Juan County sews her first sewing project - a pillow case. Twenty young seamstresses learned the parts of the sewing machine and how to use it during the two-day 4-H Home Ec School held in Los Lunas on March 21. The sewing classes culminated with the youth making recycled denim, microwavable hot pads that were presented to senior citizens in Albuquerque. (NMSU Photos by Jane Moorman)

For years, 4-H members participating in horse, dog obedience and livestock projects have had the opportunity to attend state-wide schools each summer, but similar opportunities have not existed for members doing baking or sewing projects, at least not until now.

"Until now we have offered nothing related to our family and consumer science project areas," said Mindy Turner, 4-H youth development specialist with the state 4-H office housed at New Mexico State University's College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "There's a lot of value in the livestock projects, which we don't want to discount, but we also know there are a large number of youth in New Mexico who do not have the option of raising and showing animals. Fortunately, we have many non-livestock projects for kids to participate in."

While over time more kids stay in livestock projects, Turner said a lot of 4-H members go into career fields that relate more to the family and consumer science areas.

"Our agents felt strongly that we were not providing enough opportunities for youth to find, not just hobbies, but career fields that they would like to pursue related to family and consumer sciences," she said.

The home ec school, which is the first such event in the nation, focused on the two largest participant project areas - basic sewing and baking.

During the two-night, stay-over at the Los Lunas School District high school, the youth socialized while participating in a Home Ec Carnival on Friday evening that introduced them to various project competitions such as consumer decision making, Fashion Magic and the newly created Home Ec Skill-a-thon.

Saturday, it was down to work in the sewing and baking classes that culminated on Sunday with service projects in both areas. The classes were conducted by county extension home economist and 4-H agents from around the state.

"We are very fortunate to have the cooperation of the school district administration to allow us to use the school's career academy culinary arts and cosmetology classrooms," said Anna Marie Wilson, Valencia County Cooperative Extension home economist. "The space was perfect for having 20 kids in each class."

In the kitchen, 23 young cooks, including four boys, put on aprons and got busy learning the basics of reading recipes, measuring and mixing ingredients, and the science of cooking as they made chocolate chip cookies, brownies and banana-nut bread. They also learned how to create a pleasing table arrangement for Favorite Foods district competition.

Meanwhile, 20 beginning seamstresses, including one boy, learned the parts of a sewing machine and how to thread and operate it before they made a pillow case for their bed at home. They discovered how tricky it is to keep the fabric moving through the machine so the stitching is in a straight line.

On Sunday, professional chef James Africano provided a demonstration of making mozzarella cheese and talked about his career. During service projects the youth applied their new skills in making 45 dozen dog biscuits for the Valencia County Animal Shelter and 22 recycled denim, microwavable hot pads for senior citizens in Albuquerque.
"The school was a huge success and we are already planning for next year," Turner said.