Passion and partnership proved to be the winning combination for Sierra 4-H and Oakdale High School, each of which was named a Stanislaus County Fair John Thurman Award recipient this summer.
The Thurman Award is given to the 4-H Club and FFA Chapter representing the greatest diversity of projects within their program. The five components include: Chapter Group, Showmanship, Clean Barn, Still Exhibits, and Outstanding Exhibitor.
“We had a group last year. We’ve had a group every year,” said Isaac Robles, farm manager and OHS teacher. “One thing we did that a lot of people didn’t realize was when everything was shut down and everyone was home, we weren’t home. We were at the school farm.
Maintaining involvement with children during the pandemic has also proven to be part of the winning recipe for Sierra 4-H.
“It was a struggle, but overall we never stopped,” Sierra 4-H leader Gina Bruederle said. She and her husband Cavan have been active with the club for 19 years. Almost 14 of those years they served as leaders.
“We are here to help children,” Bruederle continued on his commitment to staying connected with children in the first year of the pandemic. “We continued our meetings and we did what we could do”
The success of both groups can indeed be largely attributed to the dedication and commitment of the adult leaders of the two Oakdale winners. It has been reported that many areas have limited their involvement or simply come to a standstill during the pandemic. Options that were clearly not considered by these two groups.
“A lot of schools haven’t done anything,” Robles confirmed. “We had as many children last year as in the past. It’s been good for us because our numbers are strong. Our kids have been really successful and other programs, you see the damage they’ve done.
Bruederle echoed Robles’ sentiments by sharing the commitment of their children aged 6 to 19. Some of them continue to participate in Sierra 4-H as well as the OHS FFA.
“We get a lot of 4-H kids and it’s good because they understand. There could be less parental involvement at this level, which is a good thing. We want these kids to grow and mature,” Robles said. “Most of the time it’s easier to work with these young 4-H people because we don’t have to invest so much in them. Often I stray from their path.
The Sierra 4-H leader agreed, noting that they often work together to support children, as well as educate them. A partnership that is clearly bearing fruit since the two groups have won the Thurman several times before this year. OHS FFA hosted over 200 students at the show this year, while Sierra 4-H hosted 55 exhibitors.
“The program wouldn’t work if there weren’t good parents, good kids and no drama. We are very family oriented,” Bruederle said. “We wouldn’t be doing what we do anymore if we didn’t like and love what we do. It’s just having good people; I can’t stress that enough.
Robles said a strong work ethic and love for the program contributed to Oakdale’s FFA successes during his tenure.
“As a team, the four of us put our asses in motion,” Robles said of the OHS Ag department team. like the four of us. It hasn’t happened for a long time. »
Robles went on to state that he thought Oakdale had always had good kids, but not always a great agricultural department. The current success he attributes to the leadership of the staff, as well as their support.
“Really the willingness to let us in, having four people running the program, that’s been the biggest thing,” Robles said of the administration. “Our administration so far has been very good and hasn’t stood in our way. Not to micromanage the program.
As for the win, both groups were proud of the accomplishment, as well as excited.
“It felt good to have some kind of victory again. It felt good this year. It was good. The kids were very proud and very excited,” Robles said.
“The kids were thrilled,” Bruederle added of the 4-H club. “They raced up there and got the trophy, I think, before the bigger guys could. They were overjoyed. It’s cute to see them because they haven’t had that experience for a few years.