COLUMN: Helping shape young minds

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Feature Writer

I had a very rewarding experience a few weeks ago.

I was asked to judge the photography projects of 4-H’ers in the third through fifth grades during the annual Perry County 4-H Fair. I readily accepted the challenge and was very excited – albeit a little nervous – when I showed up to the fairgrounds July 8.

4-H parents and leaders helped me understand the guidelines and judging process of the projects, and then we sat and waited for our first 4-H’ers to walk through the door. I kept telling myself once I got through the first project, the others would be easier. I’ll admit, I was only a bit right in that assumption.

As more kids came in with their photos, I felt more comfortable with my analysis and talking to them. But it wasn’t all easy.

I’m still young myself, learning new things about my profession in journalism, which includes photography. So I understand how good, helpful suggestions and critiquing can guide a young student on their way. I also know the sting of hurtful comments and how uncaring words can affect how a person – whether an adult or young 4-H’er – sees their craft.

I wanted to strive to be honest with the kids; to help them see where they could improve and point out things they did very well. I felt I did a decent job of that. I gave out helpful tips, told them to try to new things and, most of all, told them not to give up if they enjoyed taking pictures.

It was so amazing to listen to some of the 4-H’ers talk about their projects. One little girl’s eyes lit up when I asked her about her pictures and she talked and talked and talked and talked about each one. Her pictures had stories and she retold each one with enthusiastic detail. That was the best reaction to see. And she was only a third-grader!

So many others had the same passion for photography and I could have listened to them all day long, I think. When it came time to pick the champions from my division, my nervousness came back. I had no idea who to choose. It took me at least 10 minutes to narrow down the black-and-white champion and reserve champion. But in the end, I felt confident I made good decisions.

The experience made me smile and I was happy I took my Sunday afternoon to help some aspiring photographers. For someone who is still finding her way in the world of writing – which has been my passion since I was in the third grade – judging the young photographers gave me a refreshing insight.

There is so much talent in the young kids of our area. I want to thank the 4-H organizers and leaders for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a great event. And I especially want to thank all the 4-H’ers who worked so hard on their projects and spent time sharing their experiences with me. I had so much fun and I hope I’m asked back for the event.

I told each of the 4-H’ers to visit my table I couldn’t wait to see their pictures next year, and that was the truth. I look forward to seeing their progress and what new techniques they tried throughout the year.

“Never be afraid to try anything,” was the piece of advice I doled out the most. I hope they do that and I hope I do that was well. I think it’s a nice motto to have.