4-Hers challenged to survive
Clay Jordan tells students how 4-H affected his life
News-Star news services
Posted on April 14, 2003

POLLOCK - Clay Jordan of Monroe was stranded on an island for 39 days as part of the CBS TV show "Survivor: Thailand."

He had no food, no water and no shelter. But he got through the ordeal with the help of lessons he learned as a 4-Her.

Jordan talked to 4-Hers gathered for Challenge Camp on March 28 at the Grant Walker Educational Center near here about what it takes to survive. Challenge Camps are part of the LSU AgCenter's 4-H youth development program and are offered primarily to middle school students. Youth from across Louisiana are challenged to solve problems, work in teams and learn a variety of other important life skills during these special camps.

"I was very active in 4-H as a youngster," said Jordan, who grew up in Texas. "The lessons I learned as a 4-Her have helped me in my adult life."

As part of his 4-H activities, Jordan raised a pig, which helped teach him responsibility, he said. He now owns his own restaurant in Monroe and said learning responsibility at an early age has helped him run his business.

"I also learned a lot more in 4-H," Jordan said. "I went to a 4-H Camp in New Mexico and learned how to find my way in the woods. I never got lost. This skill helped me on the island because we didn't have compasses or anything."

Other skills he learned in 4-H include tying a boat, knowing what is safe to eat, keeping bats away and hiking and swimming.

"When I was in 4-H, I learned that you float easier in salt water than you do in fresh water," Jordan said. "This helped when I was on the island because we were surrounded by salt water. It helped to know how to swim in salt water."

Jordan applauded the LSU AgCenter's 4-H program and its Challenge Camps.

"The kids who are here this year will go home and tell their friends to come next year," he said. "It's good to have programs like this for kids - programs that teach them lessons they will use throughout their lives."

Becky Owen, an LSU AgCenter agent in Morehouse Parish, was instrumental in getting Jordan to speak to the campers.

"I think it's important for the youth to see how being involved in 4-H can teach them lifelong skills that they can use even when they're adults," Owen said.

Although it began as a single annual camp offered to youth from across Louisiana, the Challenge Camp program is now offered five times each year for youth from various areas of the state.

Jordan spent the evening with the campers talking about 4-H and the TV show. He also took part in a camp ritual - signing T-shirts. Jordan even let the campers sign his shirt.

There were 16 participants in "Survivor: Thailand," which aired in the latter part of 2002. In the series, participants were deprived of basic comforts and exposed to the natural elements.

Their fate was at the mercy of strangers, Jordan said. They had to band together and use their collective wits to make surviving in a rugged, primitive environment a little easier.

Day by day, the harsh elements and threatening indigenous animals tested the participants. The survivors had to build shelter, gather and catch food and vie for rewards.

On the last day of each three-day cycle, the survivors attended a "tribal council." At this meeting, each person votes secretly to send one person home.

It got down to Jordan and Brian Heidik of California, but Heidik got the jury's votes and won the show.

"It was fun," Jordan said. "Most of us who were on the island still keep in touch and plan to get together again."