By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- About 75 students in 4-H are converging on the state Capitol here to learn how government works.
The organization's annual California Focus conference June 14-18 will involve youngsters in a mock primary election, meetings with their actual representatives, a visit to an appeals court and lessons on how bills become laws and how the branches of government interact.
The conference aims to encourage 4-H'ers to begin a life of public participation in which they demonstrate a determination to be involved in their communities, organizers say.
"I think the more informed they are about the process and what it takes to get to that level, the more thoughtful they are when they pick their representatives" later as adults, said Jenna Colburn, a program representative for the statewide 4-H program based in Davis, Calif.
Students from throughout California will also give presentations on their county organizations' civic engagement projects, Colburn said. As California 4-H celebrates its centennial this year, projects have carried the theme, "A Revolution of Responsibility," highlighting students' need to be civic-minded.
The students will stay at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza, which is steps away from the Capitol and will give members a sense of being in the center of the action, Colburn said.
"Bringing it back downtown this year was really important to me," she said, adding that students in previous years have stayed in Rancho Cordova, a suburb more than 20 minutes from downtown. "It's the energy that's down there with everyone who works in government. Being in close proximity to the Capitol is really important."
California Focus is one in a series of state 4-H gatherings in the Sacramento area leading up to the state fair in July.
Later this month, the 16th annual California 4-H Horse Classic will bring more than 150 entrants to the Brookside Equestrian Center in Elk Grove, Calif. The event June 26-30 will include a horse show and educational contest, for which winners will qualify for the Western National Roundup in Denver, Colo., in January.
The educational contest will include individual and team demonstrations, public speaking, horse judging, a "Horse Bowl" in which they answer questions and a "Hippology" contest in which they show their knowledge and understanding of equine science and husbandry, according to the state 4-H website.
The horse show will include English, Western, Gymkhana and jumping, for which participants pre-qualified. New this year will be a "tenderfoot" division for novice riders who can compete without qualifying.
The number of entries is up this year, as organizer Sarah Watkins said she has been putting the word out on social media and giving entrants a break on class fees if they bring in sponsorships.
"A lot of youth have been getting sponsors, so the show is much cheaper for them to attend," she said.
California 4-H: http://www.ca4h.org