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“I was the little tag-along with my older sister until I was old enough to join, then I was a 4-H member for nine years, then a volunteer through college, and since college I have been a 4-H staff member,” Gregory said.
Gregory, the 4-H youth development advisor and county director of UC Cooperative Extension Kings County, retired Dec. 31, 2011, after 37 years of service in the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Gregory’s career started as a 4-H advisor in Kern County in 1974, after earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from San Diego State University. She later earned a master’s degree in education from California State University, Bakersfield. In 1991, she began working as a UC 4-H youth development advisor for Kings County and became the UC Cooperative Extension director for the county in 2004.
Carol Collar, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Kings County, described Gregory as a “very service-oriented” team player.
“Here in Kings County, the 4-H program is very highly valued. She provided excellent leadership and support to leverage volunteer resources for the 4-H program,” Collar said. “Peggy really worked at providing all youth — not just those in the traditional 4-H programs, but all youth — with essential elements in youth development.”
Gregory partnered with various organizations to provide development opportunities for youth in Kings County. One such project was Teen Teams in 2008, which trained at-risk high school students to lead fun, hands-on science activities with younger children in elementary after-school programs. Community collaborators for this program included former NFL player Dameane Douglas and Hanford police officers.
“The program was great because it gave kids who had self-esteem issues a sense of worth by telling them, ‘You're going to teach, and you're going to lead those younger kids,’” said Hanford Police Chief Carlos Mestas. “I like the fact that it brought together different groups of people who wouldn’t normally cross paths for this very, very positive program.”
Through Teen Teams and similar programs, Gregory has trained more than 50 at-risk teens to lead science projects with elementary school students in this rural community.
Gregory worked with volunteer development throughout her career, as a critical component of youth development programs and part of her career’s overarching philosophy.
“A good youth development program engages the entire community to support its youth,” she said. “You really can’t have a strong youth development program without a strong community to support it — and obviously part of that is volunteers in the community who are willing to work with young people.”
More than half of Kings County’s population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, and in 2007 Gregory was the principal investigator of a project examining civic engagement in Latino communities. The project culminated in the ANR publication, “Recommendations for Working in Partnership with Latino Communities.”
Dave Campbell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in community studies with the UC Davis Human and Community Development Department, said the outcomes of the study were eye-opening.
“The project expanded the range of our thinking about different modes of engaging with the diverse communities in our state,” he said. “Peggy was really the driving force in getting this project going, and it stemmed from really deep-seated, personal and professional interest she had in the project’s questions.”
Gregory also helped create the state’s first mandatory 4-H volunteer orientation and continued to work on volunteer development and policy for 4-H throughout her career.
Though Gregory said she is taking a break from 4-H after 53 years, she has been granted emeritus status and has offered to mentor 4-H staff and volunteers.