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August 28, 2012 > 'Best-kept secret' continues to empower youth

'Best-kept secret' continues to empower youth

By Annie Yu

In the past, schools regularly offered electives classes such as metal shop, ceramics and woodworking, but budget cuts have forced the termination of many of these studies. Changes in elective school curriculum has not, however, stopped 4-H, a national organization dedicated to preparing youth, age 5-19, from allowing the exploration of a plethora of extracurricular activities. Marksmanship, photography, oceanography, jewelry making, cooking, rocketry, citizen leadership, poultry, sewing, leather making, hiking, gardening and web design - the Bayside 4-H club offers all of these projects and much more.

"We pick up where the schools have stopped," says Alameda County 4-H program representative May McMann. "We all know that all work and no play is not healthy for anybody. So [the youth] are learning while having fun and also, how to balance their lives."

The four H's are explained in the 4-H pledge: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world."

Started over 35 years ago, Bayside 4-H club has long moved from 4-H's rural, farm animal-focused roots and adapted to Fremont's urban environment. The club now boasts around 60 members who participate in numerous club, county and state projects. Vice president Rhea Nayak, age 15 says, "There's so much... it's really cool."

Every school year, club members choose their projects for the upcoming year. Project leader Janine Weston likes the flexibility saying, If you do [a project] one year and don't want to ever do it again, you don't have to. 4-H is the best hands-on education you can get."

Members learn responsibility, public speaking and presentation skills through participation. 13-year-old Ricky Rivera joined Bayside 4-H two years ago and developed his presentation skills through the poultry project. He says, "People ask you questions and you learn how to respond to them." The 8th grader said it also helped prepare him to speak in front of others. "I didn't think I would ever do this, but I talked in front of the whole school and I got elected for student council. If 4-H wasn't part of my life, I probably wouldn't ever have built up the confidence [to talk] in front of people."

Members have an opportunity to practice presentation skills at "field days" when they showcase their projects and are judged on presentation skills. If they do well at a county-level presentation, they can move on to sectional and state competition.

Ricky's mother, Edda Rivera, says 4-H is helping her son with important life skills. While participating in the poultry project, he had to feed, clean and care for his chickens. "It encourages him to be responsible."

The club's various projects also help members grasp where their interests lie. "You really get to learn what you want to be," says 16-year-old Ariele Silvas. "Using the experience that 4-H gave me, I was really able to pinpoint and be more specific about what I wanted to do with my life." Ariele, president of the club, says she learned about teamwork and leadership through 4-H. "Nowadays a lot of kids might be scared to speak in public... but 4-H really encourages you to know when it's time to be listener or a follower, or when it's time to be a leader."

With over 1,100 members and leaders in Alameda County, 4-H programs, members often develop better social skills as they meet new people and make friends. "I've learned how to actually get along with more people," says 16-year-old Kayla Colglazier. "There was someone who wanted to learn about quiches [in the cooking project]. I wasn't a quiche fan, myself, but we ended up making them and I loved them... it was wonderful."

The club also promotes community service and active citizenship. Citizen leadership is a county-wide project that allows older members to learn about government. Members who qualify may travel to Sacramento for a state focus or to Washington D.C. for a national focus. According to community club leader Beth Pratt, "[It] helps them understand politics a little bit and what's actually going on; it's a big opportunity."

The program's unique youth-adult partnership means that although parents and adult leaders are around to guide, members decide what they want the club to do every year.

Club members are currently trying to boost Bayside 4-H's visibility around the community. "We don't want to be the best-kept secret anymore. We want to be known," says McMann. The members plan to increase their community service and to visit more schools and youth-run events in order to spread awareness of Bayside 4-H. Individual members also frequently recruit friends and classmates to join.

The club meets at 7 p.m. every second Monday of each month at Maloney Elementary School. Each project also conducts its own meetings once or twice each month. The $55 registration fee covers liability insurance while additional fees may be needed for select projects.

Bayside 4-H club is hosting an open house Monday, September 10 at Maloney Elementary School. Anybody interested in learning more or joining the club is welcome to attend. "It makes our children contributing members of society," says McMann. "You're not preparing your kids to improve the world when they are adults-they're doing it now."


Bayside 4-H Open House
Monday, Sept 10
7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Maloney Elementary School
38700 Logan Drive Fremont
www.bayside4h.org

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