4-H gives youths skills to carry with them through their lives, and an important stage of life is college.

College is the point where you decide what you want to do with your life and you study to make it happen.

Olivia Berman, who was a member of Lucky Clover 4-H for nine years, was born and raised in the Santa Ynez Valley. She now is attending Oklahoma State University where she is majoring in agricultural communications.

I interviewed her about how her 4-H experience is helping her through college. One thing that Olivia treasures from her time in 4-H is the communication skills she gained by participating in the 4-H public speaking program thanks to her horse project leader Jill Jamison.

When Olivia was in the seventh grade, Mrs. Jamison signed everybody up to make a speech at County Presentation Day. It was then Olivia discovered her passion, or "spark" as 4-H calls it, for public speaking, and it was the catalyst that got her on track for Oklahoma State University.

“If it hadn’t been for the horse project … I would never have discovered what I love to do, and I probably wouldn’t be at Oklahoma State,” she said.

Olivia went on to compete in the 4-H public speaking program for the next six years. Public speaking is a large part of college, especially for a communications major like Olivia.

“The ability to go out in front of a crowd and just talk is a big thing and it’s a huge confidence booster,” she said.

But there is another aspect of 4-H public speaking experience that Olivia is valuing in college as well. She uses her writing expertise developed in the public speaking group every day.

Another proficiency that Olivia gained from 4-H was leadership skills.

Olivia held many positions as an officer, including recording secretary, public speaking junior leader, vice president, president and county ambassador. In fact, she was the club’s president before and during COVID and had to help hold the club together and keep it going.

The most important part of leadership, according to Olivia, is letting other people’s opinions shine.

“In college, I’m working in such big groups and I’m collaborating with people so much of the time. I’ve learned that sometimes leaders just need to take a step back and let everyone talk, then the group can work together to find a solution,” she said.

Olivia gained valuable skills in other project groups as well. She credits her participation in the goat project for learning the importance of responsibility and good sportsmanship. She said that while showing goats at fairs, she had to cheer on fellow competitors, which was hard at times.

Being a good sport is important to her now as a member of OSU club volleyball team.

Additionally, even though the 4-H Country Cotillion project may not have been fun when Olivia was younger, she uses the manners and interview skills she learned in that project all the time.

While all of these skills have helped Olivia in college, the one thing she values the most is that she is a member of a big 4-H community.

Upon arriving at OSU, she immediately joined the collegiate 4-H Club and found her people. Collegiate 4-H clubs do not offer the same programming as regular 4-H clubs for youth 18 years and younger, but they still do community service projects and have fun together.

“4-H is where I found my passion and my family when I was younger, and it’s the same in college today,” Olivia said.

4-H offers young people a chance to develop skills they will use in college and beyond.

If you want to know more about 4-H programs in Santa Barbara County, visit sb4h.org.

Local junior high student Hadleigh Bolton is one of two elected Los Olivos Lucky Clover 4-H Club reporters who reports on the program each month.