By Adam Jackson
It was a long week for three Ponoka 4-Hers, but it paid off for them — literally.
Samantha Sperber took home $2,000 in scholarship money while Jessica Sperber and Carling Matejka earned $1,000 a piece at the Calgary Stampede Summer Synergy Show. They had to compete against more than 300 other youths to obtain the scholarships.
“They were definitely excited and they did very well,” said Kathy Matejka, whose children have all gone through the 4-H system.
The road to the scholarships was not easy for the three, though. Senior competitors spent two months as an agricultural advocate with a blog, and Carling actually taught class about areas of the agricultural business. Her winning blog can be found at www.redhotcowgirlboots.blogspot.com.
“It feels pretty good to get the scholarship money,” said the 17-year-old. “The $1,000 is going to help out a lot.”
Carling will pursue her bachelor of science degree, and then eventually go on to be a veterinarian.
“Growing up on the farm and being in 4-H has made me really enjoy working with animals,” said Carling.
Samantha Sperber, 20, won the $2,000 scholarship for the second year in a row.
She is currently working on her bachelor of science degree in university and is deciding between optometry or veterinary medicine — but either way, she says, she wants to stay on the farm.
“People say that there are a lot of grey-haired cattle farmers around,” said Samantha. “I want to make sure that I can at least facilitate the farming industry.”
Seventeen-year-old Jessica Sperber says that one of the hardest things about the competition was the blog.
“It took a lot of work,” said Jessica. “We were marked on the quality of the blog, the amount of followers and everything so it took a long time to make a good one.”
Jessica still has one more year to complete in high school, but she expects to enter into the agricultural field in one way or another.
“It’s important for me to stay in the agricultural field,” she said.
“They always put these kids through a challenge and to get through so many talented kids, the challenges get more and more difficult,” said Mrs. Matejka.
“They have to do a marketing component, they have to do livestock judging in all avenues. This year, they judged beef, dairy and sheep.”
The competitors also participated in a showmanship section, conformation and finally, once they get through that, they went onto an interview with Calgary Stampede administration.
The competition lasted throughout the week in Olds and brought 350 people and 600 head of livestock to the venue.
Jessica and Carling competed for seven days, starting at the Alberta Provincial 4-H show, then following through to the Synergy Show, while Samantha participated in four days at the show.
“It was a long process and it’s hard work every day,” said Matejka. “They were up at 6 every morning and they were lucky if they were in bed by 11 p.m. — it’s gruelling, it really is.”
Parents of the competitors were told hands off during the competition, so all of the responsibility of feeding, grooming and cleaning up after their animals rested directly on the competitors’ shoulders.