Dr. Samuel Roberson is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
I am thrilled to have been selected as a White House Champion of Change. I can still recall, as a young kid, wanting an answer to how I could change my circumstances. I was frustrated by the speakers that were placed in front of me that constantly said “don’t become like me.” I was living in poverty, and being told I was gifted and had potential, yet I rejected being smart. I rejected the idea because I didn’t think I fit the image of what smart was, “not cool!” My counselor in middle school at the time, Ms. Artson, took time to listen to my arguments, maybe my hurt and defense mechanisms. However she continued to speak to my potential and encouraged me to give the challenge of pursuing my full academic potential a try. So I became class president in middle school and went on to attend Lowell High School in San Francisco where I continuously was challenged academically, yet given a solid foundation for a commitment to lifelong learning.
There, at Lowell HS, Ms. Brash picked up where Ms. Artson left off and supported me as I became a first generation college graduate. She selected a role model for me by showing me photos of a former Lowell graduate whom was an African American on his way to becoming Dr. Kelly. He had been a football player like me and she said I reminded her of him. She was planting seeds of aspiration of what I could become. Because if I was like him, then anything that he achieved I could achieve.
In May 2012, 33 years later, I achieved my Ph.D. at Texas A&M University from the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences where I studied youth development. Prior to graduate school, I spent over 20 years actively volunteering in my community across the states of California, Utah, and Colorado while simultaneously working full time. A stimulus for my involvement had been a desire to give back and help others who are often misunderstood, as I had been as a child. Nevertheless there was always someone that saw more in me then I could or was willing to believe.
As I engaged in volunteer coaching, I worked hard to mentor young boys and girls about life thru sport. Along the way, the oldest of my three children, and only son, was diagnosed with leukemia cancer at ages 8 and 11. In the midst of dealing with my son’s illness, I witnessed the genuine goodness of people that came to my family’s aide. I personally was overwhelmed by these selfless acts of goodwill. My son continues to enjoy the gift of life and remission 18 years later and gives back through his Make Me a Match Project dedicated to saving the lives of patients like him. Consequently, I responded with a higher commitment to my community which led to my serving as a Community Services Commissioner in Fairfield, CA for 8 years.
As a result of my community work, I decided to make a career change and pursue my passion for making a difference in the life of others with a focus on youth development. I discovered 4-H during my studies and have been fascinated with the positive youth development opportunities presented to help young people learn leadership, life skills, healthy living, citizenship, and STEM career nurturing. The emphasis by 4-H programs on hands-on learning is directly correlated to the creative mischief that I experimented with in open fields as child. 4-H programs are designed to meet youth where they are to participate in self learning.
I am excited to be a part of Prairie View A&M University statewide 4-H program where I now provide supportive research, programming and evaluation services to help our Cooperative Extension 4-H programs succeed at impacting Texas youth with a primary emphasis on youth from limited resources backgrounds and minorities. I am blessed to be positioned to help stimulate the gift of learning and positive youth development thru scientific learning and life skills development among youth that are like me.
I accept this honor on behalf of youth, families, and communities that have allowed me to be a part of a community difference; and my family (Traci, Sam Jr., Latoya, Jazzlyn and Tacir) that has supported my participation in opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others outside of our home.
Dr. Samuel G. Roberson Sr. is currently a Program Specialist, 4-H & Youth Development Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program in Texas.