Found in various types of communities around the country, 4-H is open to youth in Grades 3 through 12.
Members are welcome to join clubs no matter their race, religion, color, sex, national origin, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation or disability.
To encourage more involvement, Indiana 4-H recently invited a Jackson County club to participate in a Spanish promotional video shoot.
Twenty members of the Working for Our Dreams 4-H Club and their parents made the trip to Purdue University in West Lafayette to tour the campus and be filmed in segments that soon will appear on the state 4-H website, social media sites and YouTube channel.
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Iveth Vasquez, who leads the club along with Becky Bujwid, said it was a great experience.
“I’m very grateful that we could do this,” she said. “They saw that we’ve done a good job, and they’ve seen some of the kids here that have gone to state, and they’ve seen that we’ve grown a lot.”
Ryan Wynkoop, special projects coordinator for Indiana 4-H, said the project came about because the state organization realized there is a lot of youth it isn’t reaching.
“We wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to the youth in Jackson County and use them to create more publicity to encourage kids like them to join 4-H,” he said. “Kids join groups based on other kids that act and look like them. They want to fit in. They want to belong. This opportunity really helps new audiences feel like they belong in our program.”
During the video shoot, Indiana 4-H staff members brought in a few members of the club at a time to film different segments. They also filmed segments with parents.
The students were asked about why they joined 4-H, their favorite aspect of it and what they have learned, while the parents shared how being a part of 4-H has helped their child.
Wynkoop said the videos are being put together now, and they will soon be up on the website, social media and YouTube. There will be Spanish and English versions of the videos with subtitles.
“We’re continually trying to reach new audiences through the 4-H program and (Purdue) Extension service in general,” Wynkoop said. “We don’t have a lot of resources or tools available to advertise to some of those audiences. This is just another tool that states and counties can have in their toolbox.”
Vasquez said she hopes the videos encourage people, particularly Spanish-speaking youth, to join a 4-H club.
“When people see the video and they notice we do speak Spanish, more people will be motivated to join a 4-H group, most importantly for the cultural part,” she said.
Yesenia Varela and Wendolinne Zarate Bailon, both 16, and Alejandro Sachinas, 15, all have been a part of the club since its inception.
Varela and Zarate Bailon filmed one segment together, explaining how 4-H is good for their community and applying their experiences to encourage others to join.
“I liked being a part of it because I feel proud of being Hispanic and being able to speak two languages and standing up for more Latinos in our community,” Varela said.
“We have a lot of Latinos coming into our schools, and I think it’s important to be more involved and learn that we have more opportunities than what maybe school can provide,” Varela said. “Like outside of school, we can be a part of volunteer work, and we can be a part of getting more involved and know our opportunities and options.”
Zarate Bailon said 4-H has given her a lot of opportunities, and she wanted to get that message across in the video.
“One of the things we said was it builds friendships because I got to know a lot of people through 4-H,” she said. “It’s getting the word out there to people that might not think they have chances that they actually have.”
Sachinas said he focused on letting others know that 4-H teaches lifelong skills.
“What I wanted to get across is we have more opportunities than we think,” he said. “Some people might think that because we’re Hispanic, we can’t move forward with our lives and stay like our parents. That’s not true. Through other programs that aren’t in school, we can move forward and have more opportunities that our parents didn’t have.”
4-H has helped Sachinas become a better person and serve his community, he said.
“It helped me understand that there are more chances out there for me to advance and progress in my life,” he said. “I got to meet new people and have become more open to my community.”
The parents also liked having an opportunity to be a part of the video shoot.
Maribel Aparicio said it was good to share the benefits of 4-H.
“Some parents are not sure or they don’t want to do it because they don’t know English very much,” she said. “It’s like they don’t put their children in programs like this, so it was very cool that (the club members and parents) were picked so they could do the video.”
Aparicio said she liked being with her family and other families involved with the club.
“It was a very beautiful experience,” she said. “I liked it because I got to be with my family. The children can see that their parents support them.”
Juan Sachinas said 4-H has benefited his son, and he was glad to be able to share that with others through the video.
Besides participating in the video shoot, Juan said it was good for the club members to receive a tour of the Purdue campus. That included sitting in on an engineering class and hearing from an admissions counselor.
“It was impressive touring a university that big,” he said.
Accompanying the group on the trip were Richard Beckort and Heather VonDielingen with Purdue Extension Jackson County and 4-H volunteers Grant VonDielingen, Karen VonDielingen, Amber Miller and Dana Miller.
Vasquez established the Working for Our Dreams 4-H Club about six years ago, and it’s open to anyone. The club started with five members and now has 30.
That growth has led to members gaining recognition at the county and state fairs.
Three members — Varela, Sachinas and Marcegui Vasquez — recently were selected to take a trip to Chicago, Illinois, in recognition of their achievements. Sachinas earned state honors for his aerospace project, while Varela’s was for painting and drawing, and Vasquez’s was for ceramics.
They took a bus from West Lafayette to Chicago and then spent the next day touring an art museum and a science and industry museum, taking bus and boat tours around the city, trying new restaurants and going to the top of the John Hancock Center.
“It was really fun because we got to experience different things, and everything was really nice,” Vasquez said. “I don’t think I would have gotten to have that experience (without being involved in 4-H). I found that I love doing ceramics, and I never would have gotten to do that without 4-H. I’ve gotten to meet a whole bunch of new, great people.”