Photo and caption available
GARDEN CITY, Kan. – Local residents hope that the success of a pilot 4-H program targeted to Hispanic families is another indication that their community is growing closer socially and culturally.
“(Community) relationships are all about social connectedness and community engagement,” said Debra Bolton, a family and consumer sciences specialist with K-State Research and Extension’s southwest area office.
Bolton helped set in motion a plan to create a 4-H club for Hispanic families in Finney County, with an initial goal of 30 kids participating. By summer’s end, it grew to 90 families in two Finney County clubs, as well as clubs in nearby Cimarron and Lakin.
A unique feature of this program is that it capitalized on Hispanic families’ reliance on spending time with each other: all members of the family – even toddlers and grandparents -- were encouraged to participate together in all activities.
According to Bolton, “The success of the program is in the parents coming together and connecting with one another. The more the parents are connected, the better the community is. The community is tighter when there is a lot of connection between people who live in the community.”
The U.S. Census Bureau recognizes Garden City as a ‘minority-majority’ city, with Hispanic, Somali, Burmese and Asian Americans accounting for nearly 60 percent of the approximately 27,000 residents.
“The Hispanic community, we have different kinds of challenges; we’ve been asleep for a long time,” said Antonio Perez, who had five grandchildren participating in the summer program.
“This is going to help so everyone can wake up; we need to be involved in a lot of things, not just one thing. The way we’ve been raised, where we come from, we don’t see each other in other things – just work and work – it’s not helping us. We have to do something more and this program has helped a lot.”
Kyle Averhoff, manager of Royal Farms Dairy east of Garden City, said he has recently noticed more active community involvement by Hispanic families in the area.
“The Hispanic community is a huge part of the success that Garden City and southwest Kansas has experienced and will continue to experience,” he said. “If you look at the dynamics of southwest Kansas, it truly is an economic empire in the way that it has developed and grown, and without the Hispanic culture and the culture of many other immigrant populations, it wouldn’t have been possible to do what it has done over the past four or five decades.”
Royal Farms Dairy has 60 Hispanic employees, of a total work force of 65. As a former 4-H member, Averhoff is a proponent of the program, and in fact tried to start a worksite 4-H program for employees and their families.
“As you enter into programs like 4-H, county fairs, church, the YMCA and other programs, what you’re doing is you’re just paving the way to create the right kind of habits and be associated with the right kind of people, and allow them to grow and develop the quality of ethics that you want them to possess as young adults,” he said.
Yadira Soltero, a mother of two who participated in the summer’s 4-H program, said 4-H is helping families like hers “get involved in something new, (and) doing something important for their families and their kids.”
“Others can also get something from us. We’re Hispanic, we have a different culture and we have some different things to offer and show to them.”
Bertha Mendoza, who coordinates the Expanded Food, Nutrition and Education Program for K-State Research and Extension’s southwest area office, helped to recruit many Hispanic families to the summer program.
“I just want to see that all the children in our community have the opportunity to participate in these programs, and learn, and be able to apply all of their interests and knowledge and creativity to make this community even better,” she said.
“I would like to see all the agencies and businesses in the community investing in this program… come see the things that are happening here, and see how it can make our community better. We can have great leaders, great scientists coming out of this community just by supporting our children. I believe every child wants to learn and every child can learn if they have the proper support.”
SIDEBARLocal Dairy Boosts 4-H Participation
GARDEN CITY, Kan. -- At the Royal Farms Dairy, taking care of the 14,000 cows is good business. But farm manager Kyle Averhoff says taking care of people is good sense, too.
It’s one reason why Averhoff is spending a lot of time and energy helping to connect employees to local 4-H activities. He thinks happy families will lead to happier employees.
“We believe people are more productive and more successful whenever they have opportunities at work and outside of work,” Averhoff said. “So over time we put a tremendous amount of focus on programs such as developing this 4-H program as well as other programs in the community, sponsoring sports teams of our employees, and numerous other activities that create happiness not only inward, but outside of work.”
Averhoff, who is fluent in Spanish, said that 60 of Royal Farms Dairy’s 65 employees are of Hispanic origin, many of whom are in management positions. He said part of his responsibility as an employer of recent immigrants is to help them adapt to their new country.
“My family has multiple generations in this country, and whenever my family first came to the U.S., I’m sure it was the same. Just arriving here was a huge step,” he said. “But as the family was here for generations, then programs such as 4-H and other developmental programs were introduced and that really increased the success that our family was able to accomplish and provide for generations to come.
“Well, as someone who’s been here multiple generations, I feel it’s our responsibility to accelerate that. There’s no need for that to take generations to move up the chain as an employee. As an entrepreneur and a businessman, if we can create those opportunities right out of the gate, think what a great place the U.S. will be and how fast it can get there.”