(July 2013) Associate Dean & State 4-H Director Dorothy McCargo Freeman and Assistant Dean Jennifer Skuza testified in U.S. Congress recently about the significant educational impact of 4-H and other after-school programs. Their testimony will inform Congress as it considers the Afterschool for America’s Children Act S 326, which may result in funding changes in 2014 for non-profit organizations that provide after-school programming.
Skuza and Freeman were invited to represent Minnesota and 4-H nationally by the National 4-H Council and the Afterschool Alliance. They participated in a panel moderated by the Afterschool Alliance that included a school principal from Iowa and a K-12 representative from West Virginia. Panelists discussed the crucial role that federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding has had in leveraging state and local resources and providing the infrastructure necessary to sustain quality afterschool programs.
At the briefing, Freeman and Skuza emphasized that after-school programs such as 4-H help working families by providing safe, productive activities that foster student engagement while helping to improve education. Key points included 4-H's role in educating underserved populations, Minnesota's work with Native American youth and science, technology, engineering and math projects. For example, the Minnesota 4-H Aquatic Robotics project, which grew out of a partnership with the US Navy, demonstrates the effectiveness of hands-on, experiential learning.
Following the presentation was a robust discussion with congressional staffers, leaders, lobbyists and policy makers from various D.C. organizations, all focused on education, youth or justice issues.
Urban Youth Movement to tackle STEM learning, achievement gap
(July 2013) A new five-year grant will enable the Extension Center for Youth Development to focus on STEM learning among lower-income, middle school youth in urban areas.
Through an annual congressional appropriation for the National Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded funding to University of Minnesota Extension for the CYFAR Urban Youth Movement project for five years.
The Urban Youth Movement project model was created to ignite youth interest in learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and intended to advance urban 4-H Youth Development work. The Urban Youth Movement program targets lower-income, middle-school-aged youth living in Minneapolis and St. Paul who are impacted by the educational disparities. "This project is designed tap youths' natural curiosity to learn and by working with them to create pathways that promote their educational futures,” says Jennifer Skuza, PhD, principal investigator.
Youth program goals:
- Youth will exhibit growth in knowledge and interest around STEM subjects
- Youth will demonstrate growth in critical thinking and decision making skills that form habits that can lead educational success
- Parents/guardians will engage with their children on setting and obtaining common education goals and Youth will demonstrate growth in technological literacy
- Youth will create a personal plan for post-secondary education and career development related to STEM subjects
The University of Minnesota Extension has also set goals for this project:
- Gain new partnerships in the Twin Cities urban area in order to build program sustainability
- Improve outreach to diverse audiences in the Twin Cities urban area
- Provide staff development experiences that support confidence and abilities in working with diverse audiences
This project will be carried out by Jennifer Skuza, principal investigator; Joanna Tzenis and Jessica Russo, Extension educators; Hui-Hui Wang, STEM specialist; Tim Sheldon, evaluation specialist with CAREI; and community partners.
Minnesota 4-H partnering with ICI on a youth project
(March 2013) Minnesota 4-H is partnering with The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) on a project that brings together youth as partners in improving their communities through inclusive service learning.
The project titled “Together We Make a Difference: Inclusive Service Learning as Part of 4-H Youth Development Programs,” equips teachers and youth leaders with research-based activities to help high school youth who are at risk of dropping out of school and disengaging from their communities, to become partners in planning and carrying out service learning projects. The goal is to instill hope, a sense of purpose, self-confidence, and a positive vision of the future.
Center for Youth Development’s Jessica Russo and Anita Gilbertson, along with ICI staff lead this one-year project, delivered through four 4-H clubs in Ramsey and Anoka counties. The project began July 1, 2012 and is funded by a $38,000 grant from the University’s College of Education and Human Development and Extension. Read the full story here.
Dale Blyth receives the 2013 MnSACA Award of Excellence
(February 2013) Dale Blyth, former director and associate dean of University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, received the 2013 Minnesota School-Age Care Alliance (MnSACA) Award of Excellence for his commitment to strengthening youth work and non-formal learning across Minnesota. MnSACA cited Dale’s systematic efforts to address major issues in the field of out-of-school time learning, particularly his service in 2004-2005 as chief of staff for the University of Minnesota President's Commission on Out-of-School Time and its report "Journeys into Community: Transforming Youth Opportunities for Learning and Development,” and his publication in 2009, Exploring the Supply and Demand for Community Learning Opportunities in Minnesota: A Survey of Minnesota parents and Youth.
Our work featured elsewhere
- 11/4 Thinking Space: Reflective Practice Meets Youth Work Supervision | Youth and Policy
- 10/17 Positive Youth Development in Organized Programs: How Teens Learn to Manage Emotions | Research, Applications and Interventions for Children and Adolescents (book) | Rusk, Larson, Raffaelli, Walker, et al
- 4/1 4-H Science: Evaluating Across Sites to Critically Examine Training of Adult Facilitators | Pamela Larson Nippolt | Journal of Youth Development
- 10/17 Raising Expectations for Out-of-School Time | Grant | Harvard Family Research Project
- 1/8 Youth worker reasoning about dilemmas encountered in practice: Expert-novice differences | Kate Walker, Reed Larson | Journal of Youth Development, page 5