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4‑H Mentoring Program Gives Texas Teen Her Voice

by Denise Phelps
September 24, 2018 12:00 PM

Jewelianna, a 16-year-old 4‑H’er from San Antonio, Texas, is outgoing, well-spoken and often surrounded by a big group of friends at Harlandale High School.  In many ways, this smiling, ambitious young woman is unrecognizable from who she was just three years ago.

In middle school Jewelianna was introverted and self-conscious; she didn’t participate in any after-school activities and was very afraid of speaking in front of people.

Jewelianna remembers this period clearly, “I had a small group of friends and I didn’t interact with my family or other people that much. I was very afraid to put myself out there.”

In 8th grade, Jewelianna saw a flyer for Juntos 4‑H and after just one meeting she was hooked.  Juntos 4‑H helps prepare young people for high school and higher education, but it also fosters their self-confidence through real-life experiences. With one-on-one mentoring sessions, community service days, career exploration and fun hands-on activities, Jewelianna was presented with opportunities to discover herself. Teens in Juntos 4‑H are challenged and encouraged to grow as individuals and they learn how to pursue their dreams, all while having a Juntos 4‑H community of friends, family and adult mentors to support and encourage them.

One of the key parts of the Juntos 4‑H program is the Family Nights.  Family Nights provide an opportunity to bring teens and their families together to strengthen their communication skills and help them connect. For Jewelianna and her family, the Family Nights were transformational.

“They taught us how to communicate as a family. It forced my Dad and I to spend more time together.  It really opened our eyes,” Jewelianna explains.

Juntos 4‑H gave Jewelianna and her family the space and tools they needed to connect and helped them build relationships with one another. Jewelianna was not the only one to change her outlook – her parents have made work and life changes to ensure they prioritize family time. Knowing she had her family’s support helped bolster Jewelianna’s self-confidence; in turn, providing her with the courage to face her biggest fear – public speaking.

It was at a Family Night during her first year in Juntos 4‑H that each teen was tasked with presenting a topic they cared about to the group. Jewelianna had completed coaching on her presentation about music, but her anxiety was still palpable.

“I was really nervous; I was afraid I’d stutter over my words and I didn’t want to present.”

She mustered her courage, stood up and started her speech. She began noticing that people in the crowd were attentive, which bolstered her strength and confidence as her speech progressed.

“By the end, everyone was clapping really loudly!” she recalls.

Jewelianna loves music, which came across in her presentation. She realized that speaking confidently about things she cares about makes people interested in what she has to say.  For her, this was a turning point; a recognition that what she has to say matters and that other people want to hear her thoughts.

Jewelianna’s newfound confidence was kindled by her 4‑H mentor, Cecilia Martinez, who motivated her to continue pushing herself.

After that day, “I was encouraged by Cecilia to be more outgoing and try new things.”

Through her 4‑H mentor’s encouragement, and with her new-found confidence and skills, she was able to unlock a whole new world of relationships and opportunities. Juntos 4‑H helped her build the confidence to approach life more openly, adventurously, and freely.

When asked why she feels that Juntos 4‑H helped her not only overcome her fear of public speaking but also become the young woman she is today, Jewelianna responds quickly: “It was the group of people I was with. Juntos is like my family now. It has given me stronger leadership skills and has taught me to have greater empathy.”