Sitting. Staring. Waiting for your cell phone to light up or for the next TV commercial to end; this is how most teens spend their summer vacation.
The final school bell may mean endless relaxation for most youth, but for teens in 4-H and FFA programs, the sweet call of summer means one thing: the Stanislaus County Fair.
"I have a friend right now that's literally sitting at home doing nothing, and I can't understand that," says Ashley Mcdonough of the Newman 4-H Club. "All summer long, all they do is watch television. Then they tell me, 'Well, I don't have anything to get done,' and I just think that is the craziest thing."
Rebecca Milligan, the rabbit project leader from Westport 4-H Club, agrees.
"Sitting on the couch is like eating candy," says Rebecca. "It's sweet at first, but after a while it gives you a stomachache and you end up feeling lousy and not willing to do anything."
Some may say our generation is getting lazier, is less energetic and, quite frankly, unmotivated. However, when it comes to 4-H and FFA members, that's just not the case. The kids who get up every morning and get outside to work with their animals aren't just gaining a sense of responsibility, they're also developing a work ethic and time management skills.
As we all know, the Central Valley tends to have unforgiving heat in summer. Because of the extreme temperatures, we plan our work and animal-feeding schedules around the heat.
"4-H and FFA kids were raised in a manner to where they're geared to get up in the morning and go do something," says Blake Lemos of Modesto FFA. "The work ethic and life experience you get from raising animals gets you one step ahead and you learn how to get stuff done, and how to do it right. We're the future of America."
Aside from the personal satisfaction of going to the fair and being in 4-H and FFA, there are financial perks. Some species of animals at the fair are allowed to be sold at auction, and the money they bring in is all yours.
Friday is the 46th annual Stanislaus County Replacement Heifer Sale; it starts at 7 p.m. The 49th annual Junior Livestock Auction is July 20. Both give 4-H and FFA members a chance to sell their animals at the fair and defray fair fees and the cost of supplies, and have money to purchase an animal for next year.
I'll be selling my Holstein replacement heifer Lacy at the replacement heifer sale. I also look forward to showing the work I've done with her and being able to be rewarded for that work with the money that I will make.
If you would like to come out to the fair to see some of the hard work that members of 4-H and FFA put into their animals, the preview for the replacement heifer sale starts at 6 p.m. Friday with a free linguica dinner for anyone with a bidder card, available from the exhibit office. The Stanislaus County Fairground is at 900 N. Broadway St. in Turlock.
Taylor Menezes is a senior at Central Catholic High School in Modesto and a member of the Teens in the Newsroom Program.