Santa Ynez Valley Youth Volunteer Jennifer Berman dedicated herself to 4-H, helping youth | Local News

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When Jennifer Berman found a need, she filled it.

A decade later, countless young people in the Valley are more confident speakers, better job seekers, and more well-rounded professionals thanks to the 2022 Santa Ynez Valley Youth Volunteer of the Year.

“If you don’t volunteer, you don’t understand how it changes someone else and it can change you. So really, find what makes sense to you and go teach it to someone else,” Berman said.

Raised in the Central Valley, Berman moved to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB. There in South County, she met Santa Barbara City firefighter Steve Berman, who would become her husband, the father of their daughters Emily and Olivia, and lifelong partner.

In 1997 they moved to Santa Ynez to raise their family. Today, she owns an investment property services business specializing in multi-family apartment buildings, serves the needs of the family, their small family rancho, a growing number of mules, and is the adult leader of the Lucky Clover 4-H Club.

“Children need to know so much. If you have learned it, find a way to teach it to a child. It will change their life, and I guarantee it will change yours,” Berman said.

Berman first got into volunteer service in 2004 through the Ballard School PTA.

“Somehow I ended up being president of the PTA,” she said.

According to his nominator, Berman has organized everything from back-to-school nighttime potlucks to fundraising activities. She spearheaded efforts to develop a new signature fundraising event for Ballard, and thus the Ballard School Old School Jamboree was born.

Her volunteer service continued to follow her children, so when the girls joined 4-H, so did she. As an adult volunteer, she harnessed the family’s mule team for the Solvang 4th of July parade, the lighting of the Los Olivos Christmas tree, and worked double shifts at the fair.

“I saw that kids were missing a lot of skills that school didn’t teach them and coaches didn’t teach them, and maybe I wasn’t doing such a good job as a parent either,” Berman said.

The national youth education program already had a structure and network in place and welcomes adults to lead any project they are passionate about.

“People still don’t understand that there’s more to 4-H than animal projects,” Berman said.

She developed Country Cotillion, a project in which “kids learned how to shake hands, look someone in the eye while talking to them, what to wear, say and do if they’re going to the 80th birthday party. their grandmother, social skills, really.” she says.

She developed a job interview and resume writing workshop for high schools that connected a human resources professional to teach students how to craft a resume that cuts through the algorithms of application software. ‘today. There were practice interviews and resume reviews.

And more recently, she created Career Spark Interviews where any young person can participate in an interview with young professionals who first talked about who they were, how they got there and what they do today. The young people were then able to ask questions and make connections with people such as a biologist from UCLA, a TikTok executive, a chef from Impossible Burger.

“It was a chance for the kids to connect with young professionals who were crushing it, a chance for them to see different paths to success,” Berman said.

But his passion project for nearly a decade has been the Lucky Clover 4-H Public Speaking Project. Under his guidance, project participants learn not only how to make a great presentation, but also how to write one.

“I’ve seen all of this transform my own child and many others from clumsy, scared kids to very confident, persuasive, and passionate public speakers,” Berman said.

Although much of her work involves the hundreds of hours she devotes each year to her various 4-H commitments, she has also volunteered with the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Central California Adaptive Sports Association.

“You find the moment when you find the meaning. The skills I wanted to bring to kids, especially public speaking, are really, really important, so I just took time out of a busy life raising kids, running a business, running a home and a small ranch because, to me, it’s so important,” Berman said.

While she understands that people lead busy lives, she is also passionate about the value of volunteerism.

“I call this ‘the transformational miracle of volunteering’. It changes the volunteer as much, if not more, than the person you serve. When you find the project that makes you feel that way, you will find time for it. There is a project for everyone,” Berman said.

The winners were chosen by a panel of Santa Ynez Valley Foundation board members, Santa Ynez Valley News editors and past winners, based on nominations made by Valley residents.

The mission of the Valley Foundation is to improve the lives of residents of the Santa Ynez Valley and Los Alamos by investing in programs that feed the poor, promote health, care for the elderly, challenge the young, and inspire the community members to make a difference.

The Foundation and Valley News created the Man and Woman of the Year program in 1995 to recognize local residents for their volunteerism. The Youth in Service Award was added in 2012 to honor students in grades 9-12 for outstanding service to others.

In addition to the recognition plaques, the Man and Woman of the Year and Lifetime Achievement recipients each receive $1,000 to donate to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Volunteers of the Year each receive $250, and Youth in Service recipients receive a $1,000 bursary.

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