Utah State Extension in Piute County: Bringing 4-H to Troubled Youth
With its eclectic assortment of animals and variety of well-manicured bunkhouses, the Sorenson's Ranch in Koosharem looks like it could be a dude ranch but is really school for troubled youth. They come here from all over the country and world. The School's motto is "Helping the World One Child at a Time."
Extension's 4-H program fills a special niche here by contributing education and life skills. Jamie Horn, the 4-H program leader at the ranch was a lifelong 4-H participant and supporter who grew up in Nevada. When she moved the area five years ago she started looking for way to use her horsemanship skills when the position at the ranch opened up a year ago.
"Participating in 4-H is a reward, not a requirement, here at the school," Horn said. "The kids have to earn good behavior points before they can participate. What I think 4-H here does for children is give them a new way of thinking away from the negative influences and distractions that most urban environments have."
Working with animals takes their mind off the own problems and gives them a chance to take responsibility in a safe environment, she explained. Animals are non-judgmental and offer unconditional love in return. There are also positive peak experiences such as competing in and winning at county fairs and horse shows.
Horn said one of her success stories is a girl named Sara from North Carolina. She had some riding experience, but learned how to ride Western here. She has done so well in the program that she competed and won at the Utah State Fair this year on a horse that she owns and personally trained. Sara is going to college at Southern Utah State University next year where she can take her horse and study equestrian science.
Jamie is another girl who has flourished in the program, both in horsemanship and raising small animals, Horn said. We call her the "rabbit girl" because she has done such a great job training and raising show rabbits.
"The program has given these kids lifelong skills, memories and a new way of thinking," Horn said.