Countywide : Saved From Ax, 4-H Eyes the Future


Saved this week from the county’s budget ax, the 4-H Club program will continue to help youths develop responsibility and leadership skills through hands-on educational experiences, grateful supporters pledge.

“I really thought they were going to cut us,” said 18-year-old Jennifer Thacher, one of about 100 club members who attended the County Board of Supervisors’ budget meeting Tuesday, when the program was saved. “We were completely surprised.”

Established in 1919, the club was in jeopardy because it has been partially funded by the county, and the county was facing a $67.7-million deficit. But the board heeded pleas from 4-H youths and agreed to provide 4-H with $102,000 from a contingency fund.


The program also receives major financial support from the University of California, which pays the salaries of staff members.

Supervisor Roger R. Stanton said Wednesday that last-minute pitches by the youths convinced him that 4-H was worth saving.

“I thought they made a very good case,” he said. “This is a program where you can see tangible benefits in terms of young people.”

What started out as a club to teach youngsters about agriculture has expanded to a variety of programs including marine science, cooking, culture exchange and nutrition. The program will have about 3,500 members involved in activities during this school year, with ages ranging from 9 to 19.

Helen Bailey, a club adviser for 30 years, said she had feared the worst.

“It just didn’t look real encouraging, and I wasn’t feeling too positive about it,” she said. “We’re really excited about what happened.”

The program gives youngsters “a goal in life so they don’t end up in situations that aren’t positive for them,” she said.


Nicole Coleman, 17, said 4-H offers hands-on experiences that help establish career goals. She became a member when she was 8 because she was attracted to the blue ribbons her older sister, already a member, was bringing home from sewing contests, she said. Coleman recently won the program’s state fashion contest for a three-piece suit.

“Now the ribbons don’t mean as much to me,” said Nicole, who aspires to a future in the fashion industry. “I stayed in because of the friendship and the memories.”

The accomplishments and aspirations of the youths--illustrated by their successful crusade against this year’s budget cuts--are what 4-H is all about, said another adviser, Beverly Hardaway.

“I was never more proud of the kids,” she said of their appearance before the supervisors.