Last updated: February 06. 2014 4:38PM - 1028 Views
By Lauren Williams Staff Writer

Amanda Bradshaw
Amanda Bradshaw
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For years many youth throughout the county have enjoyed participating in Sampson’s 4-H program whether it be in a 4-H club or in one of the program’s numerous summer workshops. Now local 4-H leaders are striving to reach further into the community and bring in more diverse local populations who in the past haven’t been greatly involved in the program. One of the primary populations 4-H leaders wish to reach — and touch the lives of — is Latino youth, a group in which they feel they can make positive and potentially life-changing impacts, especially now that they have a new “go-getter” dedicated to the effort.

Making the new outreach and assistance venture possible is a national 4-H Youth and Family Practices (YFP) grant that Sampson 4-H leaders applied for early last year and received this past November. For four years now the local 4-H program, under the umbrella of the Sampson County Cooperative Extension, has been awarded the grant which created a partnership between it and North Carolina State University that helped make possible a local program for Latino youth, the Juntos program. This program, originally developed by Andrew O. Behnke, PhD, an assistant professor of Human Development and an extension specialist at N.C. State University, has been in place at Sampson Middle and Clinton High schools and currently has some 45 members.

“We’ve never managed it (the grant) locally though until this year,” said Amanda Bradshaw, Sampson’s 4-H Youth Development agent, adding that over time it has become apparent that there is a need to have a local person focused on the program’s Latino mission.

Per the national 4-H YFP, the purpose of Juntos is to encourage and help Latino youth stay in school, graduate, and go on to college, shared Bradshaw.

That purpose sets the ultimate goals for the Sampson 4-H program’s new, full-time employee, Daysi Hurtado.

“The grant is making possible this position. It pays for her, food supplies, curriculum supplies she may need, and travel,” Bradshaw explained on Wednesday, mentioning that Hurtado was in training for the job and would start work in Sampson today. “We are so excited to have her coming.”

Much of that excitement comes from feeling like the right person is taking on the job, Bradshaw pointed out.

“We interviewed on Jan. 13,” she recalled, noting that two individuals applied for the position. “Both were good and very diverse in their own ways but we really felt like she could make a connection with the kids and the parents.”

“She told us that she’s a first generation Latino college graduate,” continued Bradshaw, “so she’s proof that this can be done and comes highly recommended.”

There are a few different “pieces” to Hurtado’s new job, explained Bradshaw. One is the traditional 4-H component where she will hold 4-H club meeting, leading the members through a formal business meeting including the pledges, the discussion of old and new business, and the decisions to be made on projects and community service/volunteer work.

Getting Latino youth involved in a 4-H club will, in some cases, mean “breaking barriers,” Bradshaw said, pointing out that “for many Latinos, to be a part of a club is kind of like what living at the country club may mean to us…We want them to know that 4-H is free and available to everyone.”

Hurtado will also work closely with Latino parents through monthly family nights where she will cover topics such as computer skills, budgeting finances, and how Latino parents can help their children prepare for college and the workforce. She will also help Latino families get in touch with resources that they need but can’t find or are uneasy about pursuing.

“What she thinks that particular group needs is what she will address,” noted Bradshaw, “and every group is going to be different…It’s really about taking that fear away so that the family can succeed.”

Hurtado will also be at work within the schools — Sampson Middle School and Clinton High School as well as Hobbton Middle and High schools — through their Juntos programs, working with roughly 80 Latino youth. While the program is targted at middle school students, high school students participate, acting as mentors to their younger counterparts.

“She will be in and out of the schools every week. She will work with the guidance counselors, ESL teachers, principals,” said Bradshaw, noting that much of the help Hurtado will oversee and offer Latino students will be in tutoring and mentoring.

“You may have student who is one the verge of greatness but they just don’t know how to get there,” Bradshaw pointed out, as an example of just one of the reasons this new outreach effort is important. “We want to help get them going in the right direction.”

With such extensive outreach and assistance efforts planned, Hurtado has a full plate set before her as she begins her new job.

“We’re getting her started running,” said Bradshaw, mentioning the meetings for Hurtado with school leaders and community members are already tentatively scheduled. “In fact I talked to her the other day and told her to get her running shoes on.”

She is confident, however, that Hurtado, who hails from Sanford and is recent graduate of N.C. State University, can not only handle but eventually master and set the pace.

“She’s very sharp, a great communicator, and very personable. She’s a go-getter,” Bradshaw acknowledged. “I probably won’t be able to keep up with her.”

“We’re really looking forward to all of this,” she added. “There’s a lot of cultural norms that we’re sifting through but I think that combo of 4-H and the one-on-one time with students, who just need a little direction and attention, can get us there…It’s a new adventure for us.”

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.

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