The National 4-H Congress in Chicago is the culmination of a year's work for 4-H members.
Seven Carroll County 4-H'ers will travel to the Windy City for the annual event, scheduled Saturday through Wednesday. Additionally, the teen-agers will vie for college scholarships,as well as the honor of being named a national winner in their project area.
"To go to Chicago, the kids have to be the best in the state in their project area, as documented in their 4-H records," said Robert M. Shirley, Extension Service 4-H agent for Carroll County.
Although 4-H'ers have about 100 project areas from which to choose, such as crafts, gardening, animals, child care and mechanics, to name a few, individuals are required to focus on a specific project area and keepa record book on that subject during the 4-H year.
The record book provides a written, detailed account of what the 4-H'er has done inthe project area.
The road to Chicago begins in January, when 4-H'ers turn in their previous year's record book to county 4-H leaders.County winners then go to the state competition in May.
"They're evaluated by their record book and their accomplishments and achievements in that area," Shirley said. "A great deal of emphasis also is placed on leadership in the project area and general 4-H leadership."
State winners in most project areas automatically win a trip to Chicago, while a few areas, like electricity, have a regional competition as well.
Not all project areas have a national competition, though all state winners earn a trip to Chicago, courtesy of the project's sponsor.
The 4-H'ers are allowed only one trip to Chicago during their 4-H career.
Winners in areas with national competition have already been picked, Shirley said, but results will not be announced until the first day of the congress.
Rather than actual competition, the National 4-H Congress is a time for 4-H'ers from all over the country to meet, find out what young people from other areas are doing and get some new ideas for projects.
Brandy-Lynn Reese of Westminster is looking forward to the national fashion show next week.
"We put on a fashion show, and we're given complete make- overs," the 17-year-old said. "I'm looking forward to the winners being announced to see if I qualify for any of the scholarships in the fashion revue."
Jennifer D. Kibler, 15, of Westminster, said her child-care project area group will have several career day choices to pick from during the five-day stay in the Windy City. The teens will spend a full day at one business seeing how things are run.
"We'll meet our national sponsor, Coca-Cola, and meet project winners from other areasof the country," said Amanda G. Kent, 15, of Hampstead, who will compete for a national award and scholarships in the citizenship category.
Mandy, like the other county 4-H'ers, is looking forward to doing some sightseeing.
"There's a national 4-H chorus, a talent show, the fashion revue -- some will overlap, so you can't go to everything," said Kibler. Her child-care project has won state awards, sponsored by the Maryland State Grange.
The crafts project area has onlystate competition, but Debbie Tasto, 16, of Manchester, hopes to learn some new things at the seminars and workshops the national event will offer.
Renee C. Luers, 14, of Westminster, will be looking to increase her knowledge of rabbits at the congress, to do some sightseeing and to have fun.
Heath Geiman, 18, of Deep Run, will be competing for the national award in the sheep project area. Like the others, he's eager to meet other 4-H'ers from around the country.
"There's 40 others in veterinary science competing for the national award,and the top six will get scholarships," said Kelly L. Reed, 16, of Broadbecks, Pa., but a Carroll County 4-H club member. "The national award is a $1,500 scholarship."
The teens will be accompanied by several 4-H leaders, including Debbie Bowman, formerly of the Carroll County 4-H Extension office, and Mandy's mother, Donna Kent.