- (Focus Area) 4-H
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
In celebration of Black History Month
Through music, movies and other media, many people know about Compton, a city located in southern Los Angeles County. Keith Nathaniel knows it from firsthand experience. Before Nathaniel and his family moved to Compton in the 1970s, the LA Watts Riots of 1965 underscored the tension brewing between law enforcement and the Black community that was felt not just in California but nationwide.
“Before we moved, Compton was changing from a predominantly White city to a Black city. The Watts Riots changed that and suddenly, you've got White flight out of Compton and into the suburbs,” said Nathaniel, UC Cooperative Extension director in Los Angeles County.
Growing up, Nathaniel was surrounded by people who looked like him. “It was a typical community of people who supported each other. The adults knew each other, and the kids knew each other,” he said.
Nathaniel remembers his teachers in elementary and middle school, identifying them as first-generation college students – most of whom graduated from universities following the 1954 civil rights case, Brown vs. Board of Education, which resulted in the desegregation of public schools across the United States.
“Those teachers had this real desire for us to match, if not exceed, their success or level of educational attainment,” said Nathaniel. “They were committed to seeing us become healthy and thriving adults.”
Although Nathaniel and his peers had influential Black leaders in their schools, prioritizing academic success was challenged by the introduction of crack cocaine. “With drugs came influx of gangs. Then, you start to see the community become unstable because gangs want to control this block or that corner,” Nathaniel said.
“We used to have shootouts at our high school. But it was Black and Brown lives being affected so it wasn't newsworthy in that sense. Not like today where you see an epidemic of school shootings making the news. This was happening back in the day, too,” he said, emphasizing that he and his peers were constantly reminded to be cautious while out at social events in the community.
“It was scary to think that you could be mistaken for being in a gang even if you had no ties.”
Students that were once friends in elementary or middle school became enemies by the time they started high school. Although Black boys were highly favored as gang recruits, Nathaniel said that his strong family foundation and focus on academics kept him out of the crossfire that others stepped into.
After graduating from high school, Nathaniel started college at UC Davis, where he pivoted to sociology after realizing that engineering was not for him. “I intended to graduate with a degree in engineering, but it was so competitive. I was in classes with pre-med students, and they were jacking up the grading curve,” he joked.
What Nathaniel did not realize prior to college, however, is that academic aptitude would not be the most important aspect of his experience in education. It was also the connections and relationships he built with others. Reflecting on the five years he spent at UC Davis, Nathaniel said that it was the best five years of his young adulthood.
Grateful for the teachers and advisors that kept him grounded, Nathaniel decided he wanted to become a teacher himself. From Davis, he pressed on for his master's degree at Florida A&M University where he studied educational leadership. Despite his high school advisor discouraging Black students from attending a historically Black university or college, Nathaniel felt the urge to do just that.
“My advisor was just incredible. Her goal was to get everyone to college,” said Nathaniel. “But she didn't like the idea of us going to an HBCU because it's not how the real world looks. She would tell us that it's better for us to integrate ourselves on campuses that reflect the world we live in.”
During graduate school, Nathaniel's mother died, and he returned to California. Although his loss led him to believe that returning to school was not ideal at the time, Nathaniel said that his professors reached out to him while he was away, and their concern swayed him.
“They checked up on me and it made me realize how much support I had back in Florida. I'm pretty sure this wouldn't have been the case if I wasn't attending an HBCU,” Nathaniel said.
He went back to Florida to finish what he started. While earning a master's degree, Nathaniel said he was encouraged to pursue a doctorate degree and he seriously considered it, but not immediately. By then, his vision evolved into becoming a principal or superintendent and expanding his influence beyond the classroom. “I wanted a seat at the table, but I knew that I needed the credentials first,” he said.
Upon returning to California, Nathaniel applied for teaching positions and stumbled upon an ad in the Los Angeles Times seeking applications for a 4-H program coordinator. He was not offered the position he applied for, but he was offered a coordinator role for the Americorp/VISTA volunteer program instead and willingly accepted.
Since 1994, Nathaniel has been a part of UC Cooperative Extension and started out by managing the Americorp/VISTA volunteers who were responsible for introducing the 4-H program to communities across Los Angeles. The program grew quickly, engaging 4,000 to 5,000 kids daily. The power of the program was not just in its passionate volunteers, but the fact that the volunteers lived in the communities they served.
Prior to 4-H, Nathaniel worked for the Campfire Council and was introduced to informal education such as teaching youth in life skills and connecting with them outside of the traditional classroom. This experience served Nathaniel well as he transitioned into 4-H, inspiring him to pivot from his original goal of working in the formal K-12 system.
In 1997, Nathaniel was accepted to UCLA where he earned a doctorate of education while working full-time. “Going back to that seat at the table… by this time in my career, I knew that I wanted to influence policy that would benefit young people. I wanted to do more than teach. And I also knew that I needed the credentials to do it,” said Nathaniel.
Now, Nathaniel enters his 30th year of service to the community through UC Cooperative Extension. Realizing how far he has come, Nathaniel said that the adversity of his childhood helped build his character and prepared him for the battles ahead.
Emphasizing the significance of connecting with people, Nathaniel said that it is fulfilling to serve the community that raised him and credits the mentors and peers he has met along the way for his triumphs.
“If we surround ourselves with people that have our best interest in mind, we'd believe that we're going places,” he said. “It's about being selfless, too. So that we can help others see themselves the way we see them; so they feel empowered to do whatever it is they want to do. That's what I had, and that's what I hope to give back.”/h3>
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
Inside a quiet classroom, Sadie, a 4-H member in Orange County, stands in front of two judges with an insulated cooler bag in hand. From it she pulls out plates, utensils and napkins and sets them down on the table. She unzips the bottom compartment and carefully reaches for a cast iron platter with golden fluffy pancakes piled on top.
“Would you like syrup with your pancakes? I highly recommend it,” said Sadie, an eighth grader who is participating in the annual 4-H Food Fiesta for a second time.
4-H, a youth development program supported by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and administered through local UC Cooperative Extension offices, promotes hands-on experiential learning for all youth.
Rita Jakel, 4-H program coordinator for Orange County, described the Food Fiesta event – intended for ages 5 to 18 – as an opportunity to practice and showcase public speaking skills through a fun, food-related competition.
Youth present their creations before a panel of evaluators, who ask them to describe how they prepared the dish and why, and how they managed challenges throughout the process. The interaction between youth and adult leaders provides a unique opportunity for youth to practice career readiness skills such as job interviews and public speaking.
This year's theme was “Super Carbolicious” and 4-H participants were encouraged to make their favorite dishes using ingredients like pasta, potatoes and bread. Carbohydrates are often perceived as unhealthy, which is not a helpful mindset to have when teaching youth about nutrition. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted into energy that people need to function throughout the day.
Some of the dishes that were presented during the Food Fiesta included chocolate chip banana bread, cheesy baked potatoes, cookies and Nutella-stuffed crepes. 4-H member Kaitlin had only ever attended the Food Fiesta to cheer on a friend. This year, she decided to participate and presented pumpkin macaroni and cheese as her entry.
“Pumpkin mac and cheese is better than the regular one because there's a lot more flavor and you have to use two cheeses: cheddar and parmesan,” explained Kaitlin, a seventh grader. When asked what motivated her to participate instead of a being a bystander this time around, Kaitlin said that she wanted to work on her presentation skills.
“Usually, I'm a bit shy and I don't like to share that much. The Food Fiesta helped me practice speaking up more so that I can accomplish my goals,” Kaitlin said.
Sadie, who loves public speaking, admits that it wasn't always a strength of hers. “There was a time when I hated public speaking. But when I joined 4-H's cake decorating, poultry and food fiesta events, I got more comfortable with public speaking,” she said. “Now, I like going to events and showing off. I get to show off turkeys, my cakes and, today, I presented homemade pancakes.”
Helping to keep the day's festivities running smoothly were two 4-H state ambassadors: Michaela and Laurelyn, two high school seniors. Both have been involved in 4-H for over nine years, with Laurelyn being a third-generation 4-H member. “My grandmother grew up in a 4-H club in Orange County. She still raises breeding lambs for 4-H members to this day,” said Laurelyn, whose mother was a 4-H member in San Joaquin County.
As state ambassadors, they are responsible for creating and presenting workshops during state, national and regional events. “We also engage the public via social media, specifically TikTok and Instagram (@4horangeco),” said Michaela, who is in her second year as an ambassador.
During the Food Fiesta, Michaela and Laurelyn made themselves available to answer questions from participants and their families. Both ambassadors agreed that seeing parents involved in 4-H should not come as a surprise. “Being in 4-H is a family effort. This isn't an extra-curricular where you just drop your kids off and leave,” said Michaela.
Laurelyn shared that the biggest misconception others have about 4-H is that they think it's about introducing youth to agriculture or livestock. There's a civic engagement and leadership component to it, too. “If parents knew about all the ways 4-H can benefit their kids, I think more people would want to join us,” she said. “And they're finding fun ways to help us learn life skills, like this Food Fiesta.”
The homemade dishes weren't the only thing to look forward to, however. In another building, Sandy Jacobs, volunteer event coordinator, and her team set up a kitchen quiz for members. On several tables, there were different cooking tools and participants were challenged to name as many tools as they could.
In another classroom, while some members were presenting food, others presented their themed table setting décor. Participants had to prepare a complete table setting entry including a menu card, centerpiece and table settings for two. Judges considered creativity, use of color, table setting etiquette, knowledge in talking to the judges, and appearance in their evaluation.
Finally, to wrap up the day, members competed in a cupcake decorating competition. Participants were responsible for bringing their own supplies including tools and edible decorations for Cupcake Wars. Depending on their age group, participants had 20 minutes to decorate two to four cupcakes, each of a different theme.
To learn more about 4-H in Orange County, visit https://oc4h.org/.
- Author: Aidan Reyes
Your mission, if you so choose to accept it, is Anything is Possible!
Do you want to take your camp experience to the next level? Are you a camp staff, leader, or director looking to refresh your camp program?
The 2024 California Camping Conference offers the latest and greatest insight into the ideal camping experience! Various workshops will be dedicated to improving your camp. These workshops include topics on traditional camp activities and how to update them for modern times. Roleplay scenarios, learn about diversity and inclusion, and network to share ideas! During the conference, there will be announcements on updated rules and policies that you won't want to miss.
Send your executive staff to this fun and informative conference in the scenic coastal redwoods of Santa Cruz. The California 4-H Camping Conference will be held from Friday, March 8 to Sunday, March 10, 2024. We hope to see you there! Learn more and register on our Camping Conference event page.
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- Author: Lily Quiles
I'm Lily Q from Contra Costa County and I was declared the Overall Champion of the National Fashion Revue Constructed Category at the 4-H Family & Consumer Science (FCS) National Championship 2024 in San Antonio, Texas. I have a passion for sewing and fashion. I have been learning how to sew since I was 8 years old. Due to my disability I wanted to learn how to alter clothing because it's hard to find clothes straight off the rack that fit me. I joined 4-H three years ago and have been a part of the sewing and textile project. My sewing mentors are Teri and Allie. They have taught me so much over the years. My goal at Nationals was to make them proud!
This past year I made a stylish faux leather jacket and competed in the leather creations category for my second year in Fashion Revue. It took me a total of 63 hours to complete the jacket. It was the most challenging garment I had made so far. I placed first at the County level then advanced to State and won there as well. After that I qualified to go to Nationals and represent California 4-H. I was so excited to travel to Texas and compete against other teens from around the country. I was notified that I had to construct a garment to go under my leather jacket, so I made a wrap polyester dress in a month.
The 4-H Family & Consumer Science National Championship 2024 was held in San Antonio, Texas on January 10-13, 2024. It was a great experience to meet so many other teens who enjoy fashion like me. There were several workshops, I learned about consumer waste and how I can do my part to minimize it, I participated in sewing a quilt block to add to a beautiful quilt for Quilts of Valor. Plus, we had a state pin exchange! I collected pins from 12 different states! I made new friends who share an appreciation for sewing. I competed against 14 other contestants. They all had well-constructed garments with each one showing their individual personalities. We had to do an interview and modeling of our garments. During the fashion show we got to walk down the catwalk and show off our lovely outfits to our family and friends. Once our contest was complete, we had a free day to go sightseeing and shopping. We were walking distance from The Alamo and the gorgeous San Antonio Riverwalk.
My favorite part
The last day of the nationals was the award banquet. My favorite part of the competition was the awards because you're so excited to hear the results but then nervous too. Sitting there waiting for your name to be called is both thrilling and terrifying. The competition was so good, you really don't know who the judges are going to pick. Every contestant there looked and sounded great. 2nd place overall went to Olivia, the other contestant from California 4-H. I was so happy for her. Then when they announced first place and said my name I was so excited and surprised. I received a ribbon and a jewelry box. California 4-H took the top two spots for National Fashion Review. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget!
I highly recommend to all fellow 4-H'ers: "If you get the chance to go to Nationals, believe in yourself and do it!"
-To Make the Best Better-
- Author: Matthew Rodriguez
Recently I [Matt] had a chance to interview 4-H youth member Jonathan who is also this year's 4-H county ambassador and club president for Kentucky Flat in Nevada County. The following are Jonathan's responses to my questions.
[Matt] What is your current role in the 4-H program? Describe your involvement and any leadership responsibilities you have.
[Jonathan] Currently, I am the president of the Kentucky Flat 4-H club, as well as a newly appointed Ambassador for Nevada County 4-H. Within 4-H, I am a teen leader for the Swine Group for Kentucky flat 4-H, teen leader for the county 4-H sports shooting project, as well as project mentor for new club members and exhibitors.
About Jonathan's Spark
[Matt] What is your “spark”?
[Jonathan] My 4-H “spark” has always been to help the youth of Nevada County find their own “spark's” and excitement in raising their livestock and preparing their animals for showmanship and market. The relationships I have gained have made my “spark” worth the hours I've spent.
Jonathan's 4-H Accomplishments
[Matt] As a 4-H'er, what are some of your proudest accomplishments?
[Jonathan] Of course being chosen as a county Ambassador has been a true accomplishment, but deep down, knowing I am one of many that made it through 2020 with an animal prepared for fair regardless of the global circumstances, felt pretty good.
Looking to the Future
[Matt] Where do you see yourself in the next three years?
[Jonathan] I have always seen myself entering the military, however, in recent years, I have found a true passion in agricultural science. But to be honest, I can also see myself becoming a pilot some day. The future has a lot of possibility.
Advice for 4-H Members
[Matt] What advice would you give other 4-H youth members?
[Jonathan] Always pursue even what's hard. There is always something to learn, even when we fail.
Impact of 4-H Volunteers on Jonathan's Life
[Matt] What impact have 4-H volunteers made in your life?
[Jonathan] Leadership from the right person, with the right motives can make or break a youth member. I value the strong leadership I have seen in several aspects of projects, including Sports Shooting, and the tremendous effort my mom has put into 4-H across the county.
About the 4-H Program
To learn more about the 4-H program in Nevada County, please check out our website./h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>