What organization for young people includes projects in horticulture, fashion design, cooking, community service, art and photography, as well as livestock and domestic animal life? 4-H. Courtney Weis joined the Ulster County 4-H at age five, working first with rabbits, then, at age eight, with dogs. Last year she was a member of a canine drill team that captured Grand Champion title at the New York State Fair.
Courtney’s canine partner, Zak (who, sadly, died shortly before this article was written) was a Great Dane with several therapy dog titles and over two hundred hours of listening to children read at places such as the Duzine Elementary School and the Gardiner Library. A language-impaired kid herself, Courtney didn’t speak until she was three. She takes special satisfaction in seeing kids gain two to three levels by reading to dogs and has another Great Dane, Ullie, in training for his Therapy Dog
International (TDI) title. She also attributes overcoming her own language problems to the 4-H community service and public speaking programs in which she has always been involved.
Courtney is a student at Ulster Community College, where she is majoring in criminal justice. Her goal is a masters degree in the subject from SUNY, Albany, and eventual work with a police K9 unit. In her spare time she shares her expertise as an adult volunteer with the 4-H, works at Dunkin’ Donuts in the winter and at a Harley dealer in Newburgh in the summer. She claims to have met nicer people at Harley than at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Courtney says, “I learned a lot through 4-H. Life would have been so different without them. I also learned from my father not to judge people by appearances. Tatooed, facial-haired motorcycle riders are just the same as everybody else.” When she was 18, Courtney’s father held her hand while she got a family-designed tattoo!
At the Ulster County Fair in New Paltz last summer there were 300 4-H’ers and 2,000 exhibits. For information on 4-H contact Jenny Burkins at the 4-H Office, 340-3990.