- Author: Sophie Loeb
Bruce Knoth is a software engineer by day, and has been a longtime volunteer with the San Carlos 4-H program in his spare time. Knoth became involved in 4-H over eight years ago when his son joined the 4-H club as a second grader and a few years later, continued his service once his daughter joined the program. Knoth and his wife each served as co-community leaders of the San Carlos Club and were tasked with managing both student members and adult volunteers.
“4-H is a youth development organization, but also an adult development organization,” commented Knoth.
When Knoth began his post, the club included 67 members, and has now grown to around 150. Managing such a sizable group, Knoth has learned important tactics for building a cohesive and functional organization: delegate tasks and maximize volunteers' skills.
“We want a lot of adults involved, we want a strong volunteer base, but every year there is a lot of turnover, so we need to identify the up and coming adults and train them,” elaborated Knoth.
Part of Knoth's role is to ensure that 4-H members have a solid foundation so they can grow within the organization. There are a number of critical projects Knoth manages including beginning 4-H forays into project-based learning (i.e. sewing skills, learning to cook). Since these projects are foundational to the success of 4-H longevity and to the health of future projects, Knoth oversees a dedicated team of parent volunteers who recognize the importance of starting strong.
4-H focuses on far more than agriculture; from developing communication skills, to building leadership roles, Knoth has directly witnessed how empowering the 4-H experience can be. He has written a number of college and career letters of recommendation for former 4-H'ers, and has reviewed a number of personal statements elaborating on 4-H experiences. Both Knoth and his wife, Maeve, have developed personal relationships with teens that have spanned five to ten years. In fact, Knoth recently received a phone call from a former 4-H'er who had graduated from the program four years earlier and was seeking out a career opportunity.
“She called us for interview tips and she got the job! It is rewarding to have a relationship with teens who ask our input and update us on their lives,” commented Knoth, who added: “About a year or two ago we asked the leadership why do you come back to 4-H and some of the responses included: developing leadership skills, building strong community, sharing experiences, and raising animals.”
The 4-H San Carlos Club has brought great benefits to Knoth, his family, the student members and adult volunteers he supports, and the community at large. Often times transitioning straight from summer fairs into the next academic year without a break, Knoth's dedication to service has been consistent and important to the growth of San Carlos 4-H.
What has kept Knoth, after nearly a decade of service, committed to the 4-H program?
“Great rewards. We've had a positive impact on the teenagers we've worked with, and sometimes they give us a fair amount of credit for helping them get into college. Their 4-H experience has had a huge impact on their choice of majors, and in building really strong relationships.”