NEWBERRY — A healthy lifestyle for Berkley Derrick includes football and figure skating along with home school and a heaping dose of 4-H.
For several years Derrick has been involved with 4-H, first with a cooking club and later through robotics and through 4-H’s healthy lifestyles programming.
Thanks to the encouragement of his mother, Wanda Neese, a professor at Newberry College who also home schools him, Derrick started in a 4-H cooking club which transitioned into a healthy lifestyles program.
Though Neese did not know ahead of time, the 4-H program was led by her former music student, Alana Willingham West, a Clemson extension agent in Newberry County.
When Derrick met West, his mother said he really liked and respected her, which led Neese and her son to be hooked on 4-H.
The healthy lifestyle program and the robotics program, which was started in 2012, were the two programs offered that fit around his busy schedule.
He’s been a member of 4-H now for over two years.
The year his older sister went away to Clemson, Neese starting looking for things Derrick could do to stay occupied.
“The year he started we had heard about 4-H from some of my piano students who lived in Saluda and were active in it,” she said.
Last year the 4-H had a state robotics competition and Derrick said he and his teammates are prepping to compete a year from now in the Leggo robot division. The team has to build the robot on site and do the programming on site.
Derrick attended Camp Long in Aiken, which included an introduction to 4-H and activities such as ziplining, archery, rock climbing, shooting rifles, swimming and team challenges.
The Newberry 4-H is at a different place today where there is more for youth to become involved in.
“I really like (Alana West),” Neese said. “She is a go getter and so determined. I don’t think we could ask for a better 4-H agent. She is passionate about what she does and the kids respect her.”
Though his 4-H time is precious to him, Derrick also likes sports.
He started skating in 2006 and said he became quite good at it, competing in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas. In 2012 he started playing football for the county recreation program and said the footwork, balance and core body strength from skating transferred to the gridiron, where he was a kicker and offensive lineman.
He plans to try out for the jayvee team at Newberry High School this fall.
Derrick said 4-Hers ages 6 to 8 do the cooking club but youth older than 8 are in the healthy lifestyles program. The healthy lifestyles teams have at least three people and as many as five.
In a competition or a practice, the team draws a random recipe and receives ingredients. At that point they have one hour to plan and prepare a meal. Part of the prep is calculating the nutrition facts such as the vitamins, salt and sugar in each serving and how that compares to the recommended daily allowances established by the FDA.
They also must calculate the cost per serving. The team is scored on presentation as well as data, such as an analysis of the calories in the dish and the amount of exercise it would take to work them off.
Last year the Newberry team competed in the state healthy lifestyles competition, held at the State Fair. Derrick’s team made regionals as an alternate and finished tied for third.
“For our first year with a healthy lifestyle team, we fared OK,” he said.
He has learned more about technique from the scoring, such as safety techniques like keeping pot handles turned in while cooking.
She said Derrick, who has been cooking since he was 2, began memorizing recipes at that young age. The fire within him to cook kindles strong today. He said his favorite foods to prepare include breakfast foods like eggs, pancakes, waffles and French toast.
Construction and robotics
He and Zach Warren comprise the robotics team at this point. At first they divided building and programming duties but now Derrick said they are cross-trained in both areas. There also is a robotics group for ages 8-11.
Not all of his 4-H counterparts are home schooled, so he said he brings an interesting dynamic to the group.
Home schooling means the Derrick-Neese family could pursue unique extra activities, such as educational vacations or figure skating.
Derrick attends school in the summer so he and his family have flexibility for as-needed trips and enrichment activities during the traditional school year.
“He has had a big exposure to music, literature and history thanks to our contacts at the college,” his mother said. “That really made learning fun for him.”
Part of that education paid off. Derrick wrote an essay about himself and 4-H and was one of three Midlands students accepted to go on a trip to visit the State House and meet Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers as well as see Governor Nikki Haley’s office.
“I was proud to be accepted and get to visit the Senate chambers and the House chambers,” he said.
Derrick also plans to be on a 4-H archery team whenever it gets established, though that team remains a work in progress at the moment.