4-H Alumnus Uses 4-H University Experience to Land a Job with UF Meats Lab
Many college students seek part-time employment as they pursue their degree; office assistant, retail clerk, babysitting and food service worker are some of the common jobs students take. However, Florida 4-H Alumnus Jake Menendez took a less common part-time job as a general assistant with the University of Florida Meat Processing Center, or the “meats lab” as many on campus call it, for 20 hours per week.
Since the meats lab is a federally inspected meat processing facility, Jake’s duties are crucial to the overall function of the lab. A big portion of Jake’s job entails performing pre- and post-meat processing cleaning duties. He also participates in the harvesting and processing of meats, and packaging and labeling meats for sale.
Jake, who is majoring in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, participated in shooting sports and leadership projects while in 4-H. Jake does not have an agriculture background, so it would have been unlikely for him to apply for a job in the meats lab without the encouragement of his former 4-H club leader and his participation in a tour of the lab during 4-H University (4-H U), a weeklong summer event held at UF for Florida 4-H teens. The tour was sponsored by the Florida Feed Association and provided teens with hands on experience in processing different types of meat.
Jake credits 4-H U for preparing him to work at the meats lab. He states, “I think I would still be working in the meats lab if I had not participated in [the meats lab track]; however, I would not have been as prepared. I was able to have a tour and learn a little bit about what actually takes place in the meats lab. In addition, I was able to learn [skills] such as how to process a hog that put me ahead when I started working.”
Jake believes that the educational tracks at 4-H U are a very important part of the program. He shares that “the tracks give the participants a feel for what actually goes on at UF and can really spark their interest. In addition, learning can be a lot more engaging in a university setting where a professional or a professor with a doctorate is teaching. It gives the participants the sense that the instructor is truly an expert.”
Jake advises future 4-H U participants to take advantage of their time at UF and to listen intently and ask any questions they can think of when participating in workshops and educational tracks in the different campus departments.
“The instructors are instructing because they are passionate about the respective subject,” says Jake. “They are almost always happy to discuss [a topic in more depth], especially if someone shows interest in it.”
Working in the meats lab has benefited Jake in several ways. Having a job is allowing him to support himself through college without taking out student loans. In addition, Jake says he has learned a lot about different cuts of meat and each respective cut’s use, which he believes will improve his cooking skills and help him to make positive dietary choices. He says that working in the meats lab has helped him learn a lot about hard work and being a member of a team.
Jake is not exactly sure of the career path he wishes to follow, but he does have a general idea. “I want to work in a position where I interact with youth on a daily basis, and am in a position where I may positively impact their lives,” says Jake.
In the meantime, Jake is working this summer as a camp staff member at the 4-H residential camp, 4-H Camp Cloverleaf. He will return to work part-time in the meats lab this fall as he continues to pursue his degree.
Written By: Ben Knowles