Menifee Youth Learn Hands-On in Perris Panthers 4-H Club

Emilee Parco, 15, aims at a haystack target during archery practice at a recent 4H club meeting....

Emilee Parco, 15, aims at a haystack target during archery practice at a recent 4H club meeting.
Members of a local 4-H club want the community to know they're doing so much more than creating future farmers of America.

In fact, that's only a stereotype.

Lucy Cadenhead, 9, aspires to be a veterinarian, while 15-year-old Emilee Parco wants to be a labor and delivery nurse. Club president Courtney Baze, 17, is only thinking about which college to attend.

None of them are interested in farming, yet they're still members of the Perris Panthers 4-H Club, the longest standing organization in Riverside County that focuses on science, healthy living, and food security. The club is comprised primarily of Menifee residents and meets at the Antelope Menifee Rural Center on Haun Road.

Established in this area in 1953, the club has welcomed children ever since for the fun, while parents have been keeping them there for the empowerment.

Ask any mother or father at a recent meeting why their son or daughter is involved, and they're likely to use the words "responsibility" and "life skills."

The variety of projects 4-H offers is what helps youth grow. There are currently 20 different projects available in the club, including art, welding, cooking, animal showing, archery, and more. The group also offers opportunities in leadership, public speaking and community service.

Denise Parco, community leader of Perris Panthers 4-H, emphasized that the kids mostly run the club. The parents' only job is to supervise children as they raise animals, learn how to use a bow and arrow, decorate cupcakes, and more.

At left, Lucy Cadenhead learns the anatomy of a pig during a swine meeting exercise.

It's this hands-on learning that attracted Chris Castaing to 4-H when he was a kid, and why he got his 8-year-old son, Connor, involved.

"I wanted him to be in it because of all the things it exposes you to," he said. "And I don't want him to always be thinking of himself."

Connor's favorite part about 4-H is raising turkeys to show at the Perris Fair in October. Children ages 5 to 8 can show smaller animals, such as rabbits, chickens, turkeys and guinea pigs. Members age 9 and up can show larger animals, such as pigs, horses and goats.

Members can win awards for showing animals and sell them to buyers. Turkeys, chickens and pigs are sold for their meat.

"He's good at not getting attached," said Connor's mother, Jennifer. "He understands what it's for, and it never bothers him when it's time for them to go."

Connor is still too young to raise larger animals, but his father, Chris, is leading the club's swine project.

"This is a project that gives kids the chance to learn significant responsibility," he said. "They have to feed, cl