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Data shows many first-year students at UW were Wyoming 4-H’ers

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

            More than 12 percent of the 2021 first-year students at the University of Wyoming (UW) participated in the state’s 4-H program, according to the UW Admissions Office.

            “This number is 183 students,” said Director of Admissions Shelley Dodd. “I realize there may be more students who have been involved in 4-H from this incoming class, but this is the number we calculate of who had an initial first contact with us from 4-H.”

            The State 4-H Program office provides the admissions office names of 4-H’ers as part of a university recruitment process.

Youth participation plants a seed

            4-H is the youth educational program of UW Extension. State 4-H Program Director Johnathan Despain suggests the 12 percent number would be even higher if incoming freshmen from out of state were asked. 

“We have a whole bunch of kids here at UW from California and New Mexico who are former 4-H members, but aren’t counted in any of these numbers,” he said.

Despain guesstimated there are two to three times the UW number who attend other universities or go to community colleges then transfer to UW.

“What this means is we are creating learning environments that help kids want to pursue higher education,” he said.

            More than 6,800 youth are in the Wyoming 4-H Program. The goal of the program is to build capacity with young people to be successful adults, mentioned Despain. One measure is their desire to pursue and be lifelong learners. 

“What excites me is it’s more evidence what we’re doing makes a difference on kids connecting to UW,” Despain said. “Taxpayers are getting their bang for their buck through the 4-H program is what it comes down to.”

4-H program impacts futures

            4-H has been a family tradition for Gareth Flowers. The chemical engineering major from Powell will graduate next May. He attended Northwest College in Powell for two years before transferring to UW.

            Flowers became involved in archery and shooting sports at an early age and said whether or not any of his future children become involved in 4-H is really up to them.

            “I was fortunate in that my parents didn’t force it on me,” shares Flowers. “I had good experiences in 4-H and I hope if I have kids, they have those same opportunities if they want them, and that I have the knowledge based on my experience to help them be better than I was.”

            Kylie Mathews of Cheyenne joined 4-H in the sixth grade and was a member of the state 4-H leadership team in 2018. She said she knew she was going to attend UW.

            “The state bleeds brown and gold,” she said. “And, so, that was always the thing for me.”

During her time in 4-H, she realized there is a lot not taught in school.

“There is a lot you can gain using those hands-on experiences, and 4-H really opened that up to me,” said Mathews. “This helped develop a sense of lifelong learning and has helped push me back into the agriculture industry.”

Mathews, a rangeland and watershed management major, wants to attend law school and become a water resource for producers as an agriculture lawyer.

“I really want to do that to help advocate for this wonderful industry because it presents so much opportunity and so much learning for everybody who’s involved,” she said.

            The Wyoming 4-H Program receives funding through a combination of federal, state and county monies. A 4-H educator is based in every county and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

            Counties that provide money want the funds to make a difference in their communities, shared Despain.

“If kids are engaged through their county programs, not only will they go to through the county education, they’ll go on to higher education,” said Despain. “We know from the research side they are more likely to engage in their communities than their counterparts.”

 “What I’m hoping for is a county commissioner to look at this and say, ‘OK. It’s working. Our little investment here locally matters because here is how it fits into the big picture,’” Despain concluded. 

This article was written by University of Wyoming Extension Senior Editor Dr. Steve Miller and is courtesy of the University of Wyoming. Miller can be reached at For more information, visit 

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