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Omaha 4-H program helps troubled teens

July 29, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha Home for Boys 4-H club is taking troubled teens out of their comfort zones and giving them chances to raise farm animals.

The program the Cooper Memorial Farm aims to give the boys confidence and a strong work ethic, the Omaha World-Herald reported . Most of the boys involved in the program are there on a court order. The behavior-based curriculum includes education, mentoring and therapy.

“Get ’em over that initial fear, expose them to something they never thought they would be able to do,” said Mike Pallas, who runs the 4-H club. “Which hopefully in time opens up other avenues, you know — ‘I can do this if I put my mind to it.’ ”

The boys first learn the basics of managing a barn before they learn how to show a calf in a ring. Judges evaluate their showmanship, test their knowledge of cattle and assess the animals.

Pallas said the hard work is worth it when he’s able to make a connection with a teen and help change the trajectory of their life.

“After you do this for this many years, there’s days where you’re just like, ‘I’m not making a difference, I’m not getting through to them,’ ” Pallas said. “And a kid from the past will just stop in and sort of fill the gas tank up again.”

Gai Gatluak, 17, is nine months into his stay in the home’s residential care program. He got into trouble with law enforcement after being caught with a backpack of drugs and a gun. He said the program has changed his priorities, with goals of continuing his education and perhaps starting a business.

“It’s changed where I want to go,” Gatluak said. “Back then, I really didn’t even care. ... Riding with friends and stuff, got guns in the car, got drugs in the car — I wasn’t afraid to die or anything.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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