Exito: 4-H Latino Kids Inspired at Camp

In Spanish, the word success is “exito”. And at a recent summer camp hosted by Oregon State University, about 150 mostly Latino 4-H members were inspired to do just that.

The university’s annual 4-H Outreach summer camps for elementary and high school students highlighted the importance of gaining an education and developing skills for next-generation industries such as robotics.

Designed for Latino and underserved youth in grades three through eight, the annual camps in the woods west of Salem, Oregon, aim to help youth improve their academic skills, develop leadership abilities, and participate in healthy physical activities, university officials said.

“We run hands-on workshops to help kids explore different career opportunities,” said OSU 4-H Outreach Specialist Mario Magaña Alvarez. “We also have college students…who share their experiences with young people. We also bring in professional Latino speakers representing different careers.

Bring skills

The goal of the camps is to prepare children for the next generation of jobs and encourage them to be proud of their culture as well.

“About 90% of the kids come from farmers or low-income families,” Alvarez said. “Most of their families work for other farmers…or work in agriculture. Others work in restaurants and hotels. We have a few Caucasian children and a few Asian children.

Related: Colleges and Universities Train Students in Agricultural Technology

“Most Latin American families have a very low understanding of different career opportunities,” he said. “Most have a good understanding of teachers, counsellors, lawyers and doctors, but they don’t think about those careers because they think they’re too expensive or difficult. Their goal is very narrow.

The camps helped them consider careers in a wide range of industries. Their activities focused on:

  • Technology, including Lego robotics, GPS and solar cars, and wind power.
  • Natural resources, including forestry, water quality, wildlife and agriculture.
  • Physical activities including soccer, volleyball, basketball, swimming and camping.

Inspired by children

One morning during camp, groups of about a dozen children toured the stations learning about different careers and opportunities. At one end of a gymnasium, Victor Villegas, OSU’s technology and media support coordinator, taught drone technology, while at the other end, instructor Mary Chui Gonzalez gave a presentation on culture and dance.

Outside, Alvarez spoke to another group of young people about the importance of a college education, noting that they can either work to save money for college or get student loans or scholarships.

The talks inspired Diego Palacio, a new eighth-grader from Albany, Oregon, who wants to study business and become an entrepreneur. He has been coming to the camps for about four years.

“A lot of people talk to us about our future,” he said. The camp “develops great communication skills, things like that… You build really good friendships.”

First-year participant Kari Bazan, an eighth-grader from Hermiston, Oregon, wants to study to become a veterinarian. She thought the camp sounded interesting, she said.

“I think it’s important to educate kids my age so they know, because if you didn’t know how to go to school in the future, now you know,” he said. she stated.

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Some former enrollees in the camps later work as counsellors. About 25 high school students joined about 30 adult volunteers this summer at the OSU 4-H Center, where the camps were held. One was Kaylee Azcue, who is starting her freshman year at South Salem High School.

“I think the connections you make with camp counselors” have a lifelong impact, said Azcue, who participated for three summers as a camper. “I think it’s really important just because a lot of kids haven’t been exposed to the activities we do here.

“It’s so exciting because at first they’re so shy, but they come out of their shells so much,” she said. “It’s so much fun.”

Awareness efforts

4-H camps are one of many efforts by OSU to encourage underrepresented youth to pursue higher education, according to Ivory Lyles, director of university extension and vice provost of its division. extension and commitment. Among other offers:

  • An outdoor school funded by a state lottery available to all fifth and sixth graders in Oregon to give children the opportunity to experience nature.
  • Open Campus, with which the university works with low-income families who have not attended college to help parents understand the value of higher education.
  • A new program, Access OSU, available to students of color in the Portland area to support and guide access to higher education.

“We want to increase that target population at OSU,” Lyles said.

4-H camps’ focus on technology comes as other universities, community colleges and trade schools across the West offer training to Latino farmworkers and their families on how to use drones , automated tractors and other new equipment.

For example, the Smart Farm at the University of California, Davis focuses on promoting healthy and safe working conditions for agricultural workers while providing experiential learning opportunities where students develop the skills needed to addressing the interrelated challenges of environmental stewardship and worker equity, according to its website. .

Related: When Robots Come, What Happens to Farmworkers?

The University of Arizona’s Yuma satellite brings middle and high school students from around the area for week-long summer institutes in robotics and other technologies, and a similar collaborative approach is used by the California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo.

Hartnell College, a community college in Salinas, Calif., has worked with California State University, Monterey Bay on a three-year track for a bachelor’s degree in computer science and works ag in the program. The college also partners with large farms such as Driscoll’s and Taylor Farms to offer non-credit farmworker education courses.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” OSU mechanical engineering instructor Joe Davidson said of the Latino outreach efforts. “The outreach and outreach to the people doing this work is really important. We have people on our team who are Spanish speaking and who work with these communities. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

land of opportunity

Alvarez, the OSU 4-H specialist, grew up with 14 siblings in a family of farm workers. Originally from Mexico, he came to the United States in 1983 to work in agriculture in Washington State and eventually attended OSU, where he earned an interdisciplinary master’s degree in forest resources, adult education and Spanish in 1999.

He discovered 4-H during an internship in the mid-1990s and decided to devote his career to the educational club. He has been a 4-H instructor for OSU since 2000.

“It’s very satisfying work because most of the kids are in the same or worse situation than I was in before I came to college,” Alvarez said. “I wanted to be able to help families in financial difficulty who don’t have the skills to send their children to college.”

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