For years many youth throughout the county have enjoyed participating in Sampson’s 4-H program whether it be in a 4-H club or in one of the program’s numerous summer workshops. Now local 4-H leaders are striving to reach further into the community and bring in more diverse local populations who in the past haven’t been greatly involved in the program. One of the primary populations 4-H leaders wish to reach — and touch the lives of — is Latino youth, a group they feel they can make positive and potentially life-changing impacts, especially now that they have a new “go-getter” dedicated to the effort —Daysi Hurtado.
Hailing from Sanford, Hurtado is the new leader of Sampson’s 4-H Juntos program. Originally developed by Andrew O. Behnke, PhD, an assistant professor of Human Development and an extension specialist at North Carolina State University, the program is to meant to encourage and help Latino youth stay in school, graduate, and go on to college, per the national 4-H Youth and Family Practices (YFP) grant which is making the new outreach and assistance venture possible in Sampson. The program has been in place at Sampson Middle and Clinton High schools and currently has some 45 members.
At first glance, Hurtado may seem like an unlikely candidate to lead the local Juntos program; she graduated from North Carolina State University in December 2013 with a degree in Fashion and Textile Management. However, during her college years, Hurtado was also active in the Latino community, giving her much experience to draw from as she gets started in her new position.
Her interest in the job with Sampson’s 4-H Juntos program “really came out of my experiences at State,” shared Hurtado, noting that she was involved in the university’s Multi-Cultural Student Affairs program, was a member of its Mi Familia Club, and was a part of a Latina-based sorority. “I was heavily involved in the Hispanic community there and in Raleigh too.”
“Those experiences really renewed the love I have for my heritage; it was actually something I rejected when I was younger because I was in AP and Honors classes but I didn’t see anyone else in there like me,” she continued, mentioning that her parents immigrated from El Salvador in the 1980s, moving first to Los Angeles and then to North Carolina when she was four years old. “I really didn’t consider myself Latino until I went to college and saw others pursuing their education and dreams.”
With her passion for — and interest in — her heritage reignited, Hurtado is excited that she has found a job where she can use her own experiences to assist Latino youth and families. And the local 4-H staff is just as excited to have her on board here in Sampson.
“We interviewed on Jan. 13,” Amanda Bradshaw, Sampson’s 4-H Youth Development agent, recalled, noting that two individuals applied for the position. “Both were good and very diverse in their own ways but we really felt like she could make a connection with the kids and the parents.”
“She told us that she’s a first generation Latino college graduate so she’s proof that this can be done and comes highly recommended” she continued, describing Hurtado as “very sharp, a great communicator, and very personable.” “She’s a go-getter.”
Although Hurtado has only been on the job for about two months, she shared that time has “flown by.”
“It’s been like a whirlwind,” she said in an interview last week, sharing that her favorite part of the job is “interacting with the parents and students.”
“I love seeing their faces light up when they realize that someone is here to help them,” she said. “Culturally it’s often very different for them (the parents) and they don’t know how to help (their children), so I think it’s a sigh of relief for the parents to have someone here to help them. And for the students too. It’s not that they don’t want to graduate or pursue higher education, they just don’t know how to go about it.”
And that’s where Hurtado steps in and offers her assistance.
“There’s different tiers to Juntos. The first is a six weeks program for students and parents where I show them the steps they need to take to first of all graduate from high school and then what they need to do to pursue higher education,” she explained.”Then there’s the club aspect. We’re a part of 4-H so it’s an after school club that I help lead but it’s mostly student-led. We try to teach them things they’re not always taught in class like how to write a resume.”
Getting more Latino youth involved in the traditional 4-H club will, in some cases, mean “breaking barriers,” Bradshaw previously pointed out, explaining that “for many Latinos, to be a part of a club is kind of like what living at the country club may mean to us…We want them to know that 4-H is free and available to everyone.”
“We also hold family nights which help to foster better bonds between the students and parents and improve those lines of communication,” Hurtado added. During these family nights, she will help Latino families get in touch with resources that they need but can’t find or are uneasy about pursuing as well as cover topics such as improving computer skills, budgeting finances, and how Latino parents can help their children prepare for college and the workforce. “Again, it’s not that parents don’t want to help. A lot of time they just don’t know how.”
“What she thinks that particular group needs is what she will address,” noted Bradshaw, “and every group is going to be different…It’s really about taking that fear away so that the family can succeed.”
Eventually, Hurtado will also be at work within the schools — Sampson Middle School and Clinton High School as well as Hobbton Middle and High schools — through their Juntos programs, working with roughly 80 Latino youth. While the program is targted at middle school students, high school students participate, acting as mentors to their younger counterparts.
“She will be in and out of the schools every week. She will work with the guidance counselors, ESL teachers, principals,” said Bradshaw back in the early February when Hurtado was in training, noting that much of the help Hurtado will oversee and offer Latino students will be in tutoring and mentoring.
“You may have student who is one the verge of greatness but they just don’t know how to get there,” Bradshaw pointed out, as an example of just one of the reasons this new outreach effort is important. “We want to help get them going in the right direction.”
“We’re really looking forward to all of this,” she added then. “There’s a lot of cultural norms that we’re sifting through but I think that combo of 4-H and the one-on-one time with students, who just need a little direction and attention, can get us there…It’s a new adventure for us.”
And it’s a new adventure of Hurtado too — in a lot of ways. As she continues to settle into her new job, Hurtado, who is still currently commuting from Sanford, is looking forward to soon making the move to Sampson County and getting to know the area better.
“I actually had three counties to choose from and I chose Sampson because it’s closest to home,” she shared, adding that it’s also close to Raleigh so she can still visit her sorority sisters. “I’m very close to my family so it’s in close proximity to the things that are important to me. And the beach is only about an hour away which is always a plus.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s been a culture shock because I expected it but it’s definitely different. I thought Sanford was small but Clinton is really small,” Hurtado continued with a laugh. “It’s different coming from city life in Raleigh to a small town but I really like it. I enjoy the feeling and everyone has been really welcoming.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.