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The Minnesota Children, Youth, and Families At Risk Project

Minnesota 4-H Youth Development provides leadership to the Minnesota CYFAR Project. Led by principal investigator Jennifer Skuza and funded by CYFAR's Sustainable Communities Project (SCP) grant cycle, it focuses on strengthening the ability of middle school-age youth to set and achieve short and long-term educational goals by using an innovative and organic afterschool program model that is highly experiential. Its aim is to help youth own their learning by igniting their interest in education and to work with parents and guardians to support them in their role as their child’s first educator. It operates in three sites.

The CYFAR SCP grant cycle aims to build long-term programs and partnerships with a five-year federal grant. To learn more about this, view our Minnesota CYFAR orientation.

The Organic Middle School Youth Program Model

Two youth build a tower using drinking straws. Minnesota CYFAR ProjectThis model is designed to meet middle school youth where they are, in terms of age, culture, gender, education level, language base, and socioeconomic status, and enable them to achieve educational success. The model is organic; it develops from the community up rather than from the program down, providing an engaging and flexible structure that is suited for middle school youth and their parents and guardians in group settings. The organic program structure sparks a new enthusiasm for learning and education.

This video of Willmar youth testing the hovercraft they built together showcases this enthusiasm for learning.

Sites and partners

Extension Youth Development works in partnership with the Extension Center for Family Development to develop the parent program. This project is delivered in three community sites.


Delivered in partnership with Willmar Community Education and Recreation to two youth programs and one large parent program at Willmar Middle School.


Winona Middle School, and the Winona Housing Redevelopment Authority each host an after school youth group and parent group in Winona County.

St. Paul

The St Paul sites work in partnership with American Indian Magnet School and Emma's Place to deliver two youth programs and two parent programs.

Long-term project goals

Our project is guided by three long-term goals for participating youth and their parents:

    1. Youth will set long-term personal education goals in the context of higher education and careers.
    2. Youth will exhibit mastery in a topic area of their choice.
    3. Parents will be engaged with their children on setting and meeting educational goals.

Read our latest impact report to view our progress in meeting our stated objectives.

Youth Survey

CYFAR program participants: please give us your opinion! Take the survey now.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Skuza, PhD. ( 1-612-624-7798

Joanna Tzenis ( 1-612-625-9771

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