There’s a new 4H Unidos Club starting in Dade City that’s intended to reach into a community that traditionally hasn’t been part of such clubs.
The club is specifically reaching out to Spanish-speaking youth and their parents, although it’s not an exclusive club.
“It’s a totally inclusive club. Anybody can join. That’s kind of the nature of 4H and all Extension activities,” said Whitney C. Elmore, director of the Pasco County Extension Office.
However, Elmore noted, it became clear last year during community stakeholder meetings that more services were being requested in Dade City’s Lock Street area.
“Folks in the community were saying, ‘We want to know more about 4H,’” Elmore said.
The meeting is set for May 13, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Resurrection Park, at 37124 Lock St., in Dade City. Free hot dogs and chips will be served.
During the stakeholder meetings, Sammy Ortiz stepped forward and said he wanted to get involved. Both he and Grace Reich, from Elmore’s office, will take on leadership roles.
Elmore believes that “4H is the perfect vehicle, to talk about entrepreneurship and leadership skills.”
It also helps youths develop literacy about livestock and agriculture, both very important topics in Pasco County, she said.
Beyond that, club members have the chance to learn about environmental stewardship, sustainability, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other topics.
These are among the things the community said they needed, Elmore said. “So, we’re doing our best to respond to that.”
To that end, the club will have an informational session to find out what potential members are interested in, and will begin planning future meetings.
The meetings likely will be in various locales around the community, Elmore said.
The information session will help set the tone for future meetings.
Besides delivering information, the session will be aimed at listening to what topics the community wants the 4H Club to explore, Elmore said.
“We can take it in a million different directions. That’s one of the best things about 4H. It’s definitely not one-size-fits-all,” Elmore said.
It’s not clear yet whether there will be fees, but if there are and a family can’t afford them, the University of Florida won’t allow that to be a limiting factor, Elmore said.
“We’re hoping that we’ll have sponsors step up out of the community to help fund some of the fees and some of the activities that the children will want to do,” Elmore added.
Grace Reich, who works in Elmore’s office, has stepped up to help lead the 4H Club.
“I’m part of this community. I’d like to see the Hispanic people be more involved in 4H, because we’re a big part of the community.
“I think they can see some things they haven’t seen before — opportunities that they don’t realize are out there. I think it’s a good thing,” Reich said.
The club is expected to meet at least once a month.
“We’re hoping to get an idea of what they’re interested in. What excites them,” Reich said.
Ortiz got involved after learning about the conditions in the Lock Street area.
“It goes back to coming to the Kumquat Festival and missing the turn to go onto Meridian, and going onto Lock Street, and Lock Street looking like it was a Third World country, and I said, ‘Why does Lock Street look different than Seventh Avenue?” Ortiz said.
“I want underprivileged kids to have the same opportunities (as other kids).
“It’s going to open up a whole new horizon for them,” he said.
“I’d like to see a melding of what they can learn from 4H — not just from an agricultural point of view, but how to deal with people, how to communicate, how to relate to people who are different from themselves.
His hope is that “at the end of the day, what will end up happening is that they can build community. They all go to school together, but they don’t live in the same area.
“This way, it will bridge a gap, build community,” Ortiz said.
He wants to plant seeds of hope in these youths’ hearts, that they could one day attend the University of Florida.
The program “may not change physically, the way that Lock Street looks, but if we can begin to impact the way that the kids think mentally, eventually the way that Lock Street looks will change because the kids on Lock Street will change.”
New 4H Unidos Club
What: An information session about a new 4H Unidos Club forming in Dade City
Where: Resurrection Park Pavilion, 37124 Lock St.
When: May 13, 10 a.m. to noon
Who: Parents and youths are invited to learn about the new club.
Details: Free chips and hot dogs will be served; parents and youths are invited to offer ideas about what kinds of activities the new club should do.
Information: Call Whitney C. Elmore at (352) 518-0156 or Sammy Ortiz at (813) 563-5753.
Published May 10, 2017