Jordan Dove and Koda show off their award of merit just moments after presenting to the judges. Jordan's mom calls Koda the "Michael Jordan of dogs."
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Jordan Dove and Koda show off their award of merit just moments after presenting to the judges. Jordan's mom calls Koda the "Michael Jordan of dogs."
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Casey Martin

Preaching for more diversity at the Washington State Fair

There's one week left of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, so it's the final few days of of competition for the young members of 4-H.

One student is trying to do more than bring home ribbons.

Jordan Dove, 16, of Bellevue just finished presenting her dog, Koda, to the judges. This competition was showmanship but Dove said they've tried every dog sport.

"Rally, obedience, dock diving, barn hunt," she said. "We've got a couple of trick titles."

Think 4-H, and you might envision young people raising a calf or pig to show at a rural fair, or maybe displaying vegetables they've grown. But 4-H long ago grew beyond farm-based clubs to offer urban programs, some with a decidedly STEM focus.

Animals are still very much in the mix, though.

Dove fell in love with 4-H three years ago at this same fair.

"As I was walking around the barn I was like, 'Oh my god, there's a bunch of dogs here, I love dogs, why am I not in this?'" she said.

Dove started working with Koda when he was 3 months old. They practice every day. That paid off this year with a blue award of merit.

"Which means he got above a 97 out of 100 for his showmanship score," she said.

The win means she's invited back to compete again.

Dove was facing four other kids in showmanship -- all of them white. In fact she is the only person of color in the room.

And with her bright shock of pink hair — she stands out.

Jordan Dove working with Koda at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.
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Jordan Dove working with Koda at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Casey Martin

She said that in her three years of doing 4-H she hasn't met another student of color.

"That would be awesome if more kids of color can get involved," she said. "It is always a little awkward being the only person in a huge room with a bunch of people."

Jessica Bischoff, a co-leader of the Happy Tails 4-H Club, said the organization relies on word-of-mouth and fairs to attract kids like Dove.

"We don't go out and just target different neighborhoods or anything like that," Bischoff said. "We're open to everybody."

The very outgoing Dove, a junior at Sammamish High School, said she'll do her part and keep telling her friends about her work with Koda.

"I'm always preaching trying to get more people of color to be involved because I think diversity is a fantastic thing," Jordan said. "I want to see everyone feel comfortable in this sort of world."