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Meet Keith Nathaniel of University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keith Nathaniel.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Keith. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in Compton, CA during the 1970s and 80s and needless to say it was a turbulent time in Los Angeles’ history – the explosion of gang violence and the epidemic of crack cocaine ravaging communities throughout Los Angeles County. Against that backdrop and with that context, I went through school in the Compton Unified School District where I was exposed to caring, dedicated teachers and educators as well as family, friends and neighbors who were determined to provide a learning environment that would allow us to be resilient, healthy and contributing people.

The foundation aimed me toward UC Davis, earring a degree in Sociology; then to Floria Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), earning a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership; to UCLA, earring a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. The experiences in each of the periods of my life put me in a position to work in the field of youth development for the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. My work centers around engaging members of the 4-H Youth Development program as well as youth in general in experiences, activities and projects that promote leadership, life skills and civic engagement. For me, it’s really about helping youth become better connected and linked to community and its resource. In other words, helping youth develop social capital.

For more than 25 years, I have been inspired by the experiences the 4-H youth development program offers and the valuable learning opportunities youth have. Whether it’s robotics, public speaking, environmental science, animal science or leadership, each of these projects helps youth has the potential to lead to enhanced leadership skills, the learning of a life skill and/or civic engagement.

My hope is that my career in youth development continues to evolve and I that my contributions to the field helps youth reach their full potential.

What were some of the most difficult struggles you’ve had to overcome along the way?
The one struggle that I recall the most is when we downsized our program footprint. To me, I wondered how we were going to programmatically meet the needs of youth if we didn’t have the capacity to do so? Ultimately, the struggle led to our program forging partnerships with other youth serving agencies and continuing to do the work on behalf of youth. The richness in the partnerships strengthened our resolve to serve more youth across the entire county.

What else should we know about the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources?
True to the mission of the land grant universities, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources connects the power of UC research in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition and youth development with local communities to improve the lives of all Californians.

For over 100 years, our advisors, specialists, faculty and staff have been committed to:
Connecting Californians to their University;
Leading the way to science-based solutions;
Providing information that is trustworthy and not biased;
Sharing research that is practical to use;
Addressing local concerns as part of the community;
Inviting the participation of concerned stakeholders;
Facilitating problem-solving and outreach to address the state’s toughest challenges

What sets us apart from others is that we bring the University of California to every county in California. No other entity or institution can make that claim.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like the economic, racial, demographic and social diversity of the Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I dislike the seemingly de-facto housing segregation that exists in the Greater Los Angeles area.. Communities don’t seem to be as integrated as they otherwise could be so this creates some disconnected communities across Los Angeles.

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Image Credit:
Dohee Kim, Dee Keese, Dawn Fuller

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