OSU extension 4-H outreach initiative reaches milestone

June 7, 2005

CORVALLIS - The Oregon 4-H Program has achieved its best success to date in reaching out to Latino youth who are part of Oregon’s fastest growing minority and an important new audience for Oregon State University Extension Service educational programs.

More than 2,000 Latino youth are now participating in Oregon 4-H club activities, according to Beverly Hobbs, OSU Extension 4-H youth development specialist. That represents a 400 percent increase since 1997, when Extension launched the Oregon Outreach Project, led by Hobbs, to attract Latino youth and families to Oregon 4-H.

Oregon’s Latino community has grown dramatically over the past decade and, with a population of more than 275,000, represents 8 percent of Oregon’s 3.5 million people. Yet due to language and cultural barriers, Latino adults and youth have been hesitant to take advantage of Extension educational programs available to Oregonians, Hobbs said.

Through Oregon Outreach, OSU Extension 4-H program faculty developed culturally responsive educational programs that have established relationships and a foundation of trust with Oregon’s Latino community, she added.

The Oregon Outreach Project has been funded by a number of grants starting with an $800,000 USDA Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Program (CYFAR) grant in 1997. The grants made it possible for the Oregon 4-H program to hire several bilingual/bicultural 4-H program assistants who play a key role in OSU Extension’s outreach effort, said Hobbs.

Offering club activities that meet the needs and interests of Latino youth has also encouraged their involvement. 4-H traditional dance clubs and soccer clubs are two examples of activities that have strong appeal.

A traditional dance club in Independence in the mid-Willamette Valley has been very successful in attracting Latino youth, according to Elena Pena, Polk County 4-H outreach coordinator. Not only do members learn to dance but they also learn to sew and make the costumes they will wear in dance activities.

“The children really enjoy sewing the costumes they will use when they perform the dances,” said Pena. “The parents support the activity because they see their children connecting with Latino cultural traditions.”

The sewing activity is led by a non-Latino teenage 4-H member using a typical mainstream 4-H club learning format, Hobbs added.

A short distance away in the Salem area, 4-H field faculty in the Marion County office of the OSU Extension Service have used the game of soccer to attract Latino youth and Latino adult volunteers to 4-H.

“Generally, the Oregon 4-H program has not offered team sports as a 4-H club activity,” said Hobbs. “However, youth soccer is a good fit as a club project for Latino youth because the sport is very popular in Mexico and among Oregon’s Latino population.”

Although out-of-school soccer leagues are widely available, Hobbs noted that many Latino youth are unable to join in these programs because of the cost of participation.

“In counties where we’ve offered 4-H soccer clubs, Latino parents and youth have been very enthusiastic about participating,” said Hobbs. “The soccer clubs may not be a traditional 4-H type of activity, but they do provide what all 4-H programs are designed to deliver—an affordable and positive environment where youth can develop a good self image, strong social skills, a sense of achievement, and willingness to respect and work with others.”

So far OSU Extension 4-H field faculty in 13 counties have started outreach activities to attract Latino youth to 4-H. Hobbs anticipates that two more counties will be added to that list this year.

Author: Bob Rost
Source: Beverly Hobbs