Right on Target

Local 4-H member aims service projects to pay forward the opportunities she has been given

By Mary Stewart, OSU Extension faculty, west central region

NEWBERG, Ore.—If you can catch up with her, you might find Sasha Perez, 17, shouldering an air rifle at the National Junior Olympics Shooting championships, or you might find her behind the sewing machine constructing petite, colorful garments for the “Dresses for Africa” project. Yet another time, you might find her caring for her pigeons, poultry and rabbits or teaching youngsters new skills in her role as 4-H Club junior leader.


The busy Newberg High School junior combines the responsibilities of 4-H Club project work with the ethics of 4-H Club community service because she feels compelled to pay back the local community for the advantages she has received. “I have been doing service projects for several years,” says Sasha. “It’s the opportunity for me to give back.” 


Sasha’s lifestyle of positive accomplishments, “ties back to the five Cs in 4-H: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character and Caring/Compassion,” says Mike Knutz, OSU Extension faculty who directs the 4-H Youth Development program in Yamhill County.  “The 4-H projects are just a vehicle we use to help kids develop in these five “C” areas,” he explains.


As she went through the process of selecting a service project to undertake, Sasha searched the internet until she found the international project, ”Little Dresses for Africa,” a charitable organization that provides relief to the children of Africa. In this program, simple dresses are made out of pillow cases or fabric remnants and distributed to little girls through the orphanages, churches and schools.  “Even if it is not your community, you are doing good for the world – and helping people in need who don’t have things to wear,” she explains.

Sasha used the sewing patterns she found on line and organized work parties of her fellow 4-H members and school friends to cut out and sew 100 little dresses. Much of the fabric was donated by members of the 4-H Club. The dresses were sent off to Africa in May and Sasha is currently organizing another round of work parties to do it all over again this year.


Sasha started her 4-H Club experience in fourth grade and enrolled in the 4-H shooting sports program in fifth grade.  She learned how to safely handle a BB gun and make her shots straight and true by practicing on paper targets posted on large bales of straw under the watchful eye of 4-H leader John Nyberg and her father, Tony Perez, who is also a shooting sports 4-H leader. Over the course of several years, Sasha graduated from BB guns to air rifles and finally to .22 rifles.

The progressive shooting sport training has taken her all the way to success in the National Junior Olympics shooting sports competition in Colorado. “I placed second overall – coming in right between two Air Force Academy shooters!” she says with a bright smile of triumph. In order to qualify to shoot in the Junior Olympics, Sasha had to score 390 points out of a possible 400 at a competition in Oregon. 

“It’s amazing how much 4-H has done for Sasha,” says Liz Perez, who is Sasha’s mother and also a leader in the Bacon Bits N’ Friends 4-H Club.  “For her, it has opened doors to things we didn’t even think of -- she started with BB gun in the 5th grade and now she’s at the Junior Olympics level and has traveled to other states and won medals qualifying for the USA Olympic junior development team for shooting.” Sasha is being recruited by universities who have NCAA shooting sports teams. Most of those universities will offer scholarships and are located on the east coast.

Liz describes the transformation of Sasha from a shy 9-year-old who couldn’t stand in front of people and talk: “Through the years 4-H has taught her so much. She has leaned to be a public speaker, and what to say when you are representing your 4-H Club and all the people in it.”


According to Sasha, of all the hats she wears in 4-H, she enjoys her role as 4-H Club junior leader the most. Junior leaders help support and teach new skills to the younger 4-H members.  “I like being able to help the kids. I remember being that old and being terrified – not knowing what to do. All the junior leaders who were there really helped me,” she recalls.


Throughout her 4-H career, Sasha’s life has incorporated the five Cs:  Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character and Caring/Compassion. Clearly, she is now demonstrating a sixth C, that of Contributions to self, family, community and the institutions of a civil society. Clearly, she is right on target for a very successful future.