When Jacklyn Hernandez was a young girl, the thought of someday attending college seemed like uncharted waters.
Now the Kansas State University freshman can attribute her 4-H involvement in helping her pursue a degree in elementary education.
Hernandez joined the Riley County Verde Clovers 4-H Club in middle school after a club recruiter attended an after-church celebration.
As the current Riley County Verde Clovers 4-H Club president and lead volunteer, Hernandez says the multicultural club helped her better prepare for higher education. Hernandez says her club — comprised of mostly Hispanic members—not only bridges the gap between high school and education for the members, but also is there to support the parents.
“4-H had a major impact on my life,” Hernandez says. “I am a first-generation college student. With my parents not attending college, they didn’t really know how to explain how to prepare for college, and they were unable to help me fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through 4-H is where I did most of that and received help from mentors who helped guide me through the process.”
Through the Riley County Verde Clovers 4-H Club, Hernandez was one of four Kansas students selected to attend True Leaders in Equity Institute in Washington, D.C. This event, sponsored by the National 4-H Council, helps youth gain insight into understanding equity and inclusion and provides training and skills on how 4-H’ers can bring their ideas back to strengthen their communities.
“This was a unique opportunity to learn about equity,” Hernandez says. “Many youths attended across the country, so it provided a diverse setting to hear everyone’s voices.”
While attending college, Hernandez serves as the project coordinator for the Kansas 4-H Community Vitality Team, which is responsible for organizing events that can help support leadership and lead dialogue among youth on difficult topics.
As Hernandez is working to obtain her degree, she says she believes her past and current roles within 4-H have allowed her to build a strong foundation of skills to help her in her career.
“Our club is more like a family, not just a regular club,” Hernandez says. “We are there to help each other and support each other and ensure everyone succeeds. I am now able to take what 4-H has offered me and use my experiences to give back to my community and help other members grow!”
This article is part of a series celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 2021. Read all the articles in this series: