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More Than Livestock
Valley Home 4-H Shares The Fun
VH 4H 4
Valley Home 4-H students Jacob MacDonald, Lainey Smith, Joseph Smith, Joseph Nielsen, Elizabeth Nielsen, Mitchell MacDonald, Candice Pinckney, Christine Lamb, Bailey Berteo and Halley Rose Smith.
If passion and enthusiasm could be bottled and sold, the student participants of Valley Home 4-H Public Speaking would be set for life. While the group of over one dozen students may vary in age, background and personal interests, they all share one thing in common — a love for public speaking.
The Public Speaking group has been led for the past nine years by Diane Hougland, with the support and assistance of her husband Jerry. The couple first became affiliated with Valley Home 4-H 20 years ago when their children Eric and Chris were in elementary school. Diane has spent 19 of her 20 years with Valley Home 4-H in some capacity of leader.
Now 20 years later, with their own children now 29 and 27, the couple is just as dedicated to the group as ever before. Their passion and dedication for helping young people learn to overcome and conquer the task of public speaking has now led much of the group the opportunity to participate in the State Field and Presentation Day.
The event will be hosted May 30 at UC Davis and while children from throughout the state will gather to share their interest in varying 4-H categories, 10 of the group’s 14 participants have qualified to participate in the Public Speaking and Share the Fun competitions.
“We believe in the values that 4-H teaches and the opportunities it provides for personal growth, leadership development and critical thinking,” Diane shared. “As our children left home we considered it an opportunity to continue our participation with 4-H and to share something back.”
The group they have led this year achieved 10 individual Golds at the County Level hosted at Denair High School in March, eight individual Golds at the Regional level in April, as well as a group Gold for their first time participation in the Share the Fun category.
Share the Fun, while not new to the 4-H organization, was just recently added to the Stanislaus County 4-H division. The category offers the group an opportunity to develop and perform a skit on a category of their choosing.
The students of the Valley Home group participating in this category were led by Jerry Hougland and parent volunteer Erica MacDonald.
“This is the first time in several years we’ve had this many participants,” Diane said of the group’s size.
The students, ranging in age from nine to 15, shared that as their appreciation grew for the group they invited their friends to join as well.
“We promoted public speaking with our own children,” Diane stated, “and saw the self confidence, poise and character emerge from within each of them.
“Children do not always get an opportunity in their daily routines to have public speaking experiences unless they are enrolled in special classes,” she continued. “4-H gives them the opportunity.”
Oakdale High School sophomore Lainey Smith, 15, joined the group five years ago to help overcome her shyness.
“I’ve actually become more comfortable with myself,” she said. “Before I would hardly ever talk and now I can’t stop talking.
“Most people think it’s for younger members,” Lainey added of the 4-H organization, “but it’s really for all ages.”
4-H was founded on the principles of Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The 4-H mission states: “The mission of the 4-H is to help young people develop their potential. This is done by encouraging them to participate in practical real-life experiences. As a result of this involvement, they should be better able to lead satisfying lives as responsible, self directing, members of society.”
The members of the public speaking group are able to choose the category type for which they would like to speak. Categories range from impromptu to illustrated, demonstration and prepared. They are also allowed to choose their own subject matter. While notes and cue cards are not allowed, visual aids are.
“The reason I chose this project,” Candice Pinckney, 15 shared, “is because I wanted to be prepared for when I’m an adult.”
Candice performed a prepared speech on the topic of energy drinks titled, “What is All the “Buzz” About?”
She described the use of one’s creativity and incorporating her thoughts and feelings to an audience as the most rewarding part for her.
“It’s engaging,” Jacob MacDonald, 12 said of the Public Speaking project. “You learn a lot and you get very comfortable very fast. The project really kind of draws you in.”
Memorizing her speech is just one of the things nine-year-old Halley Smith described as what she finds enjoyable about the project.
“You learn to build confidence, make a lot of friends and have a lot of fun,” she said.
“Our teachers are very comforting,” Ashlyn Berteo, 14, chimed in. “It took teamwork to get where we are.”
“The whole thing excites us,” Diane said of the project and what they have accomplished. “But when they come and say ‘next year’ (referring to returning), that really excites us.
“We really enjoy seeing the poise and self confidence emerge from each of the children,” she said. “Given the opportunity as children to overcome challenges or fears becomes a lasting trait.”
The 4-H organization has been around for years, yet remains a vital and integral part of many communities, built on a foundation of service.
“4-H is an organization which survives on volunteers,” Diane concluded, “parental participation and family interaction, which seems to us to be pretty good medicine in these times.”
Valley Home 4-H features over one dozen varying projects. It has 21 adult volunteers and 91 youth members. Other Oakdale area 4-H groups include Orange Blossom 4-H, River Oaks 4-H and Sierra 4-H. For additional information visit