Kianna Chacon hand quilts a block during the 4-H quilting club held Thursday mornings at the USU Extension office. (Kristin Millis/Moab Sun News)

The 4-H Summer Club program in Grand County is running strong as Utah celebrates its 100th anniversary with 4-H. Over 80 children are participating in 21 clubs through the Grand County extension this summer.

“Our philosophy is that learning can be fun,” said Grand County extension agent Mike Johnson.

4-H is a national program that operates through 3,000 county extension offices and 109 state colleges. It began in 1902 to give children a hands-on learning experience for rural youth. Utah State University adopted the 4-H program in 1912. 4-H represents the areas of head, health, heart and hands for thorough human development.

Johnson credited Marion Holyoak, the Grand County 4-H coordinator, for having such a strong program here. The two have worked together for 14 years.

“Marion does a wonderful job in finding great volunteers and retaining them,” Johnson said. “She has been tremendous in finding interesting clubs.”

While curriculum is available through 4-H, Johnson said that the most of the clubs are a result of the talents or interests of volunteer club leaders. This summer children had a variety of interests to choose from, including traditional home making skills, crafts, sports, archaeology and watershed conservation.

Katelyn Murphy, 8, is in the cake decorating class hosted by Allyssa Keogh on Wednesday afternoons.

“I never decorated a cake before and I always wanted to. I like making cakes,” Murphy said.

She is also in the sewing club hosted by Peggy Harty on Wednesday mornings.

“It’s not always easy,” Murphy said of sewing.

Hailey Lawley, 10, who is also in both the cake decorating and sewing clubs, agreed.

“It may look easy, but it’s not,” Lawley said.

Kianna Chacon, 11, is in several clubs this summer: Sewing, babysitting, volleyball, spinning, quilting and international cooking.

Her favorite? Volleyball.

“Because it’s really fun,” Chacon said.

Young people involved with 4-H are nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school, nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college, 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors and 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities, according to The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University.

“It is amazing how many people tell me they were in 4-H as a youth, and they then tell me how much 4-H contributed to their success in life,” said Kevin Kesler, USU Extension director of Utah 4-H programs.

One of the unique features of 4-H is that clubs are open for children between the ages of 8 to 18. Children have an opportunity to work with peers, but also to learn from those who are older and to mentor those who are younger.

“Some of our older teens help with the program,” Johnson said.

Alisha Day and Linda Minor host the hair and beading club that is very popular with pre-teen girls this summer. Day assists her mother, Toni Day, with the scrapbooking club and the clover bud club for children ages five to seven years old. Minor assists her mother, Lourae Minor, with two cardmaking clubs: one for girls and one for boys.

“I don’t see it as babysitting,” said Kim Shafer. Shafer has been actively involved in 4-H as a parent of three boys: Harold Luke, 8; Nathan, 11; and Ben, 13. “It allows us to learn together. We can do a project together that someone may know more about, but I can still be involved and work with my kids.”

Kim Shafer and her three boys attended the international cooking club hosted by Beth Hood on Thursday afternoons at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center.

“I never had matzo ball soup before,” Shafer said. “She gave us the background. She talked about every ingredient and explained it to the kids.”

Shafer expressed great appreciation for the work Holyoak has done over the years to provide strong programming, as well as work with each child individually.

“She is just so wonderful with the kids. She loves the kids and you can tell. She has a lot of patience. She knows what to do to entertain them,” Shafer said. “She is just such a giving person.”