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Reyer Receives Tribute to Volunteer Excellence Award

LAS CRUCES -- Karen Reyer, a livestock education specialist at the New Mexico Girls' Ranch, fills her days tending a menagerie of horses, llamas, chickens and rabbits at the ranch. She was recognized for her service and received New Mexico's 4-H Tribute to Volunteer Excellence Award during the Western Region 4-H Leader's Forum, Mar. 16 in Idaho.

Each state selects one outstanding 4-H volunteer who has made a unique or innovative contribution to 4-H, a national youth program sponsored in the state by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

Reyer draws upon her experience as a veterinary technician/animal behavior counselor to build children's trust through animals at the New Mexico Girls' Ranch, a residential home for girls from troubled backgrounds, located near Santa Fe.

"By first trusting and being trusted by animals, many girls are able to move on to a trust in people," Reyer said.

She supervises the animal program, teaching the girls how to feed and care for horses, llamas, steers, lambs, goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs. With her guidance, every 4-H member at the ranch turns in record books tracking their progress in various 4-H activities including citizenship efforts, livestock projects and public speaking events. Brandi Rae Farkas, a senior 4-H member at the ranch, won a trip to Memphis based on her outstanding state record book on citizenship.

One of the most effective and popular projects Reyer started is the portable petting zoo, which allows the Girls' Ranch to serve the community. The girls take an assortment of baby animals to local elementary schools where they talk about the animals and let younger children hold, pet and feed them.

Traditionally, 4-H activities involve contests and competitions to hone youth's skills. "The petting zoo is an opportunity for the girls to give something back to their community, without the stress of a contest," Reyer said. "In general, the girls need teamwork and sharing more than competition."

To help the older girls prepare for real-life situations, Reyer wrote a curriculum for teens called "Consumer Decision Making for Independent Living." The program is being taught to the eight high school seniors at the Girls' Ranch with help from local home economists, bankers, apartment managers, grocery store managers, state employment officials and interior designers.

Reyer has been a 4-H leader for 28 years, working in seven states. She is a New Mexico 4-H Advisory Committee member, a Friend of 4-H, and has served on the Santa Fe County Fair Board for three years. She also is a past president of the New Mexico Registered Veterinary Technician Association and a charter member of the North American Veterinary Technician Association.