UCCE advisor John Borba retires after 30-year career helping youth in Kern County

Jul 11, 2022

John Borba, UC Cooperative Extension Kern County's 4-H youth development advisor, retired on July 1. For over 20 years, Borba has been key to the success of the 4-H program in Kern County, which affords young people an opportunity to test and strengthen their leadership skills while finding and building community.

Borba began working with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1992 as the 4-H program representative for Tulare County. In 1999 he relocated to Oregon to work as an advisor for Oregon State University's Extension team before returning to California in Kern County in 2000.

For 30 years, Borba has focused on improving the lives of young people.

“I appreciated many things about John,” said Marianne Bird, 4-H youth development advisor for Sacramento County. “He was never the ‘sage on the stage,' but rather a thoughtful, competent partner who led from behind. And I loved to watch him teach – asking questions, engaging his audience, enthusiastic about his topic. He was an excellent teacher.”

Bird and Borba worked closely together, supporting and developing statewide 4-H camp programs for 15 years.

“He helped lead an amazing team of 4-H staff, volunteers, youth and academics in some of the most rewarding work of my career,” Bird said.

Together, Bird and Borba prioritized program improvement by presenting research findings at national and international camp conferences, conducting eight statewide conferences, developing camp safety and risk management resources, and authoring two books.

Among the 4-H activities offered in Kern County, Borba oversaw Operation Military Kids for children whose parents were deployed by the National Guard and the Reserves, connecting them with resources, social enrichment, recreational activities and educational opportunities.

To attract more Latino youth, families and volunteers into 4-H, Borba and his 4-H colleagues developed culturally relevant programs. As a result, the number of Latino youth participating in the 4-H program increased more than 250% in three years. The National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals recognized the achievement with its Diversity & Inclusion: Expanding the 4-H Audience Award in 2021.

 

“Of the many programs, research projects, and activities that John led, it was his dedication to the Shooting Sports Program that had the most impact on and created significant impact for the youth and families who participated,” said Russell Hill, associate 4-H youth development advisor for Madera and Mariposa counties.

Borba's support resulted in the program – which promotes safety sportsmanship and ethical behavior – serving more than 4,500 youth annually with at least 16 hours of instruction to the more than 1,000 volunteers throughout his tenure. 

“John really took the Shooting Sports program to a level of coordination, improved training and volunteer development, and tracking of data,” Hill said.

While his work focused on youth, Borba's leadership and positive impact were felt among his colleagues as well. Borba, who earned an M.S. in human resources from Chapman University, contributed greatly to the workplace environment and culture.

“I am grateful for being able to work with and for John Borba as the director and advisor in this office for 10 years,” said Carol Heaton, Kern County 4-H office support technician. “It is without question that he treats everyone the same way: direct, considerate, honorable, with understanding and compassion. All this with a keen sense of humor. He is someone I look up to.”

Sue McKinney, 4-H program representative, agreed and added that Borba is the best supervisor she has ever had. 

“He was always quick to share his knowledge,” McKinney said. “In everything he did you could see his deep dedication to the 4-H program. He will be greatly missed by everyone in this office.”

Southwest 4-H Leader Amy Andrews notes that 4-H youth and leaders in Kern County will surely miss Borba's presence too.

“John Borba is a kind, helpful and caring person towards each and every person, whether they are in 4-H or not,” Andrews said.

In retirement, Borba, who has received the prestigious emeritus status from UC ANR, will continue to serve young people by developing a 4-H Avian Embryology Program. It is expected to launch in 2023.

“The goal of this program is to serve as an outreach tool for the Kern County 4-H program and the University of California. It has the potential to reach thousands of youth who would normally not be able to participate in a 4-H club,” he said, explaining that many of the participants are from populations underserved by the traditional 4-H club model.

Borba is hopeful that this program will contribute to enhanced classroom learning experiences and excite young people about animal science and food production processes. He also believes that it will contribute to improved behavior and attendance in school.