4-H helped me realize I could do anything!

May 2, 2022

4-H helped me realize I could do anything!

May 2, 2022

Editor Note: The following essay was submitted by Joseph Rowlands for a 4-H scholarship from the Napa County 4-H Council.


4-H has had a drastic impact on my life. Having been born with cerebral palsy meant that I required many therapies on a weekly basis. I always needed people to assist me physically with activities. This meant that I didn't have much confidence in myself.

I joined 4-H at the age of eleven and raised two goats. Suddenly I was responsible for the care and well-being of two living things. They didn't care whether I was as strong as my peers, they just wanted food and water. I found that my strength improved, my confidence grew and I loved showing at the fair, even though I still required an assistant to help me control the goat. The next year I showed all by myself and placed! I realized then that I could do anything, my disability would not stop me. I didn't need a first place ribbon to feel like a winner, I was one as I was as capable as everyone else. 4-H gave me the confidence to believe in my own abilities.

The summer after middle school, I attended 4-H camp, having never been away from home before. My oxygen requirements have always meant that people were nervous to have me without my mother, just in case something went wrong. 4-H was amazing and said, “of course I could attend,” and they bent over backwards to make the week happen. This was my first experience being away from home. It started to put a seed in my head: “I could go away to college. I am capable of leaving home and I will be fine.” I will be moving to Sonoma State in the fall, living on campus. Close enough that I can still keep my regular doctors, yet independent. 4-H helped me to be independent.

I have been a member of Valley Ranchers 4-H since I was eleven years old. I have raised goats and steers. I used to be mentored by the older youths in the program and now I am one of the mentors. I have been involved in various projects through 4-H, such as the robotics club, arts and crafts, summer camp, presentation day, favorite food day and various other activities. Over the years I decided that I wanted to be more than just a member and joined as an officer. I became Club Treasurer for two years, then I became Club Co-President for two years, this year I am Club President. I am a Napa County 4-H Ambassador and I am also on the Napa County 4-H council as the member at large.

Involved in my community

Prior to COVID, I was involved in the robotics club at Justin-Siena High School. I was also in the choir at my church and very involved in the youth group. Unfortunately, once Covid-19 started, I had to give up most of my extracurricular activities. Over the years I have done a lot of volunteering work. I was one of the teen leaders of a STEM event at the Boys & Girls Club. I have been a Vacation Bible School counselor for various summers since middle school at Saint Apollinaris Catholic Church. I was a tribe leader at the 4-H summer camp in Angwin. I volunteered through Gigg at the Community Projects Christmas tree sale every year since middle school. I handed out water to runners on Thanksgiving mornings at the Turkey Trot held at the Napa Valley College, amongst other activities.

Technology and Robotics

Technology has a way of making the world accessible for people like me who have disabilities. From a young age I learned to program robots and I see the potential use of robotics to better our world. Robotics has uses in many ways: from the medical field, to the car industry, to assisting people with disabilities in leading a more independent life. I decided that I would like to pursue a career in technology and I hope to narrow down a specific field during these next four years of college.

I will be attending Sonoma State University and majoring in Computer Science. This scholarship would change my life. It would help to open doors to me that have previously been closed. As a recipient of a 4-H scholarship, I would utilize this scholarship to help with my college expenses such as my tuition, room, board and books.

Supportive 4-H Leaders

As for the 4-H leaders I have come into contact with, they are so numerous to mention. I have had nothing but amazing 4-H leaders who have supported me throughout my 4-H career:

  • Jennifer Wade-Yeo, Valley Ranchers 4-H leader who has believed in me and encouraged me to try out for officer positions, ambassador positions and the 4-H council. She has always been such a great mentor, without her encouragement I am not sure I would have applied.
  • Tammy Hill, who believed in me and my abilities and encouraged me to not only enjoy camp as a camper but to come back and be a tribe leader! I don't know if I would have had the confidence to try for tribe leader without your encouragement. Again, when you were interviewing me for the Ambassador position and I stumbled through my interview, you helped me find some talking points helping me through the process.
  • Mrs. Maria Thomason, the Robotics leader, has always been so encouraging.
  • Jennifer Goodrich who has been awesome in the leadership group
  • Jennifer Jensen who has been amazing with the leadership project and the ambassador group!
  • Of course Paul Tarap has been another mentor that could not go without being mentioned. He is a 4-H leader and he is the Ag4Youth leader, but I could not mention one group without the other as I would not have been in 4-H without Ag4Youth.

I know I am missing leaders that I have had interactions with, but I honestly could not talk about one leader standing out over anyone else as 4-H only has amazing leaders (at least in my experience). Everyone I have been in contact with has truly been a wonderful role model, encouraging and willing to bend over backwards to help.


Update from Tammy Hill, 4-H Volunteer for Napa County 4-H Camp

Joseph will be receiving the Polly Wagenknecht Memorial Scholarship from the Napa County 4-H Council.

By Joseph Rowlands
By Suzanne Morikawa
Editor - YFC Marketing and Communications Specialist