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Berks County 4-Hers Celebrate National 4-H Week, in Puerto Rico!

Posted: December 18, 2014

Deborah Dietrich, 4-H Extension Educator and two Berks County 4-H members visit Puerto Rico to celebrate National 4-H Week.

Liceo 4-H Club President, Ariel Perez, presented Berks County 4-H delegates, Deb Dietrich, Laura Dietrich and Shianne George, with a Puerto Rico National 4-H Week poster signed by all of the members of Liceo Clubes 4-H. #iam4H translates to #yosoy4H in Spanish. This was a special social media campaign to help put a face on the 4-H youth development program nationwide.

The 4-H program celebrates National 4-H Week the first full week in October, annually. This year, Berks County 4-H was invited to share in the celebrations by their mutual 4-H Volunteer, Sandy Hernandez, who volunteers for the 4-H program in both Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Cidra, Puerto Rico. Celebrations are a cultural standard in Puerto Rico and their celebration of National 4-H Week was no exception!

County 4-H Educator, Deb Dietrich, along with 4-H Teen Leaders, Shianne George and Laura Dietrich, essentially “crashed” the 4-H party going on in Puerto Rico, giving them an excellent opportunity to learn about the 4-H program in this distant commonwealth, first hand. They observed several 4-H programs and events as well as visiting key island cultural sites, leading Laura Dietrich to remark, “Immersing myself in different traditions and culture while visiting Puerto Rico has opened my eyes to a new perspective of 4-H. 4-H can be experienced many different ways but still have the same life changing effect on a 4-H member.”

The Puerto Rico celebration kick-off event was a public event for families on Sunday afternoon, held at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. It included booths with 4-H program displays and cultural exhibitions. Berks County 4-H was represented with two displays that opened the door to discussions about 4-H program similarities and differences. For instance, Puerto Rico is just beginning to implement a 4-H shooting sports program for which Berks County has a well-established club. As another example, their 4-H horse program focused on Paso Fino/Columbian gaited horses for trail riding, very different from Pennsylvania’s focus on Western and English performance horseback riding.

Monday was spent teaching agri-science to 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grade students at the Luiz Munoz Bilingual School in Cidra. Shianne and Laura led the lesson on lecithin from the Acres of Adventures 4-H curriculum. Mrs. Santiago’s science students explored the science concepts of surface tension and surfactants and discovered how food science improves products we enjoy using these science principles. There was a second opportunity to work with the 6th and 7th grade students again on Friday when they joined the 11th grade science students of the Ana J. Candelas High School for the 4-H National Youth Science Experiment, Rockets to the Rescue. Deb Dietrich observed, “The students were so eager to engage in our 4-H science and engineering lessons. The enthusiasm and desire to learn that they brought to school and our 4-H science activities, despite a less-than-ideal learning environment, was heartening.”

No anniversary celebration is complete without a Gala, which the Cidra 4-H Program held on Monday evening in their city municipal building. Volunteer leaders and teen members were recognized for their special contributions to the Cidra 4-H Program in 2014 along with recognition for the Berks County 4-H Program as a sponsor of their recently rejuvenated 4-H program. Island-wide, special 4-H events, such as this, took place. Events included proclamations by local mayors and 4-H clovers everywhere, making this impactful youth program more visible.

In Aquadilla, the 4-H Club at Liceo Aguadillano Bilingual School was visited by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, who commended their creation of a school garden as a community reminder to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet along with encouraging more locally grown produce for this island, which is particularly food-insecure. After the First Lady’s visit, the Berks County 4-H delegation had the opportunity to visit with the Liceo 4-H Club members who were warm and friendly and as eager to learn about 4-H in Berks County as their visitors were. Shianne George noted that, “meeting 4-Hers in, not just from, Puerto Rico was an enriching experience. We had the opportunity to actually see what makes 4-H unique to them.”

Additional opportunities to learn about 4-H in Puerto Rico included a special stop at 4-H Club Tree House, located within the El Yunque Rainforest. This 4-H club has its meeting place adjacent to the visitor’s center of this National Park. Learning about forestry, this club also performs valuable community service by harvesting seedlings in the under canopy of the forest, which they repot and distribute to local community beautification programs using indigenous plants.

This special opportunity to experience National 4-H Week in Puerto Rico, provided a glimpse of the impact and pride of the 4-H Program in Puerto Rico. It is a program which is positioned to be the leading positive youth development program in Puerto Rico long into the future. As Deb Dietrich remarked, “Berks County 4-H is fortunate to be able to partner with the Cidra, Puerto Rico 4-H Program. It is an exchange which enriches the 4-H experience for youth in both our homelands.”