Growing up in 4-H, having a friend in 4-H, having a parent who was in 4-H: these are all the precursors to a good story! I grew up in Sacramento County 4-H, where I was an active member in a few projects and passionate about 4-H Camp throughout high school. I am a product of a bi-generational agriculture family, meaning my dad grew up heavily influenced by the agriculture industry, but he did not follow in my grandfather's footsteps. I am thankful I inherited my grandfather's spark of interest in our agriculture industry. Since my parents do not own property, at a young age I learned how to climb my neighbors fence and help milk their dairy goat herd every morning.
I joined 4-H when I was in 3rd grade - I still remember literally dragging my mom to the first club meeting. I remember telling her “mom, this is the place people learn about animals… I have to join it!” It added another task to my mother's to do list. She recited that my interest in animals and agriculture was just a phase; she has finally stopped referencing that. My true love for community development through agriculture programming is here for the long haul. After high school it took me to Chico State, the University of Colorado, and it has now led me to Placer County.
Last summer I was working for an extension office in Castle Rock, Colorado. I was talking with an adult volunteer about her Cat Project. Hear me out on this, I was asking about her love for cats. She stopped me and said I don't love cats, I love the kids. She said it is all about the spark, and that statement is where I learned exactly what my career goals were. The spark is why we are all here helping carry youth through these amazing experiences. Sometimes it can take awhile for kids to find their passion - it could be showing cats! When I was young I loved animals, my love for animals turned it to a love of presentations when I took my Nigerian Dwarf Goat presentation to State Presentation Day. I gained the confidence to speak in public, which was so empowering at a young age. In college I would think back on my State 4-H Presentation Day and it would ease my nerves before I had class presentations. We are here to spark kids' interest, pass down our passions, and support them through their goals.
I am excited to see the sparks in Placer County in the future!
Natalie Cunha, Placer County Community Education Specialist II