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Youth development news archive

2014 News

WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum now available

front cover of weconnect (October 2014) WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum, designed for youth-serving organizations that are interested in incorporating cultural education, is now available on the 4-H Mall.

WeConnect is a program model and curriculum designed to show youth that they are participants of a global society, inspiring a sense of understanding and confidence in relating and connecting to other people. The curriculum includes a coordinated series of experiential and interactive exercises that prepare youth to thrive in culturally diverse settings--whether these settings are part of their school day, home life, social life, or workplace--by giving them the opportunity to learn and use culturally responsive skills and knowledge. These skills are based on an international education approach, which is one specific form of cultural education that guides youth beyond knowing that they are citizens of the globe to an acknowledgement of their responsibilities to each other and the world around them. It is designed for nonformal educational settings such as afterschool programs or clubs with middle school-aged youth (grades 6-8 and ages 11-14), but can be adapted to suit both younger and older age groups.

The exercises are organized into four phases of building cultural knowledge and skills:

  • Phase 1: Exploring
  • Phase 2: Stretching
  • Phase 3: Challenging
  • Phase 4: Connecting

To learn more about WeConnect and how you can use it in your work with young people, contact Jennifer A., or Jessica Pierson

To purchase the WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum, go to the website, contact, or call 1-301-961-2934.

Extension co-hosts social and emotional learning summit

(May 2014)  Leaders from a variety of community organizations including educators, foundations, businesses, municipalities, faith-based organizations and youth participated in a two-day summit at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to develop ideas on how to enhance social and emotional learning (SEL).  A growing base of research shows that SEL is critical for success in school, college, career and life. SEL helps to prevent bullying, enhance school climate, encourage healthy decision making, and reduce the need for discipline. 

Day one featured research by Gil Noam of Harvard University and Kimberly Schonert-Reichl from the University of British Columbia, a youth panel and community conversation to develop recommendations for action to move SEL forward in the state or their communities. Day two featured Noam and Schonert-Reichl speaking with leaders of youth-serving organizations and educators about the opportunities that emerge when measuring youth holistically and how neighborhoods, schools and programs use data to enhance social and emotional development in young people.

The two-day summit had nearly 350 in-person attendees and approximately 150 online attendees. It was co-hosted by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development and the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI), in partnership with Youthprise

St. Paul Mayor and National League of Cities President Chris Coleman welcomed the audience and said, “Social and emotional learning skills are critical for 21st century youth. They are fundamental building blocks for success both inside and outside of the classroom.  This summit and the national focus on SEL skill development will improve the lives of our youth and strengthen our communities. I call on leaders in the education system, community organizations, businesses and our cities' residents to join in the conversation for how we can best support and enhance SEL skill-building with our youth."

Stay tuned for our upcoming symposia in fall 2014 and spring 2015 which will focus on cultural perspectives of SEL as well as developing strategies for incorporating SEL in practice.

4-H builds the next generation of STEM leaders

Source magazine, Spring 2014

Extension’s 4-H youth program stimulates kids’ interest in science, creating the next generation of scientists needed in the 21st century. Meet two 4-H alumni studying at the University of Minnesota. 

Read more in Source magazine

2013 News

4-H alumni give back to Minnesota communities

Source magazine, Fall 2013

All youth have the ability to lead, and 4-H makes sure it happens. In fact, 4-H youth are three times more likely to contribute to their communities. That's because 4-H is designed to bring out a young person's unique ability to lead and succeed. And, 4-H alumni continue to contribute long after graduating from 4-H.

Read more in Source magazine

Dorothy and Jennifer standing in front of the capitol Minnesota 4-H testimony helps inform Capitol Hill

(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.

4 girls working on a science project 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, 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.

4-H National Mentoring Program in St. Paul and the Fond du Lac reservation

(January 2013) Minnesota 4-H received $82,000 this year to continue its 4-H National Mentoring Program in St. Paul and the Fond du Lac reservation. Jessica Russo, Becky Meyer and Susan Beaulieu are the co-PI's and this is the third year for this funding in Minnesota.

The 4-H National Mentoring Program is recognized for implementing effective mentoring strategies with goals of improving family relationships, increasing social competencies, increasing school attendance, reducing juvenile delinquency, youth unemployment, and school failure while incorporating core principles of positive youth development to improve the well-being of at-risk youth ages 8-17, especially underserved populations of Latino, African American, and children of incarcerated parents.

The funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) supports these initiatives that assist in the development and maturity of community programs providing mentoring services to high-risk populations under the 4-H National Mentoring Program. The goal is to reduce juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, truancy, and other problems and high-risk behaviors. The program objective is to provide direct one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, or peer-mentoring services to under-served youth populations.

Identified objectives are:

  • Improved outcomes for at-risk youth;
  • Improved mentoring program administration; and
  • Improved organizational capacity.

In St. Paul, Jessica Russo manages two programs, Kid Power, which is a group of 4th - 8th grade kids focused on digital media, and the McDonough 4-H Club, which is located at McDonough housing. Youth and mentors meet weekly using a group mentoring model (ratio of 4 youth to 1 adult) to explore STEM, engage in service learning, and develop goals and leadership skills for overcoming barriers to higher education. Trips to campus, leader retreats, fairs, and businesses help connect and apply learning and establish long-term commitment. Family empowerment sessions engage families with youth educational goals.

At the Fond du Lac Reservation, Becky Meyer and Susan Beaulieu manage the matching of youth and mentors based on career interest. The participants take part in monthly group mentoring sessions focused on gardening, archery and cooking, and co-develop field trips to facilitate deeper career exploration. Youth also participate in weekly 4-H club programming and monthly family night out events. Facilitated by 4-H staff, Brookston Center staff, and other community partners, these events are co-developed with youth.

National 4-H conference coming to Minnesota in 2014

(January 2013) The 2014 National Association of Extension 4-H Agents conference will be held in Minneapolis. Held in even-numbered years, NAE4-HA offers professional development members' professional competency, capability and scope in the dual discipline of youth development and Extension education.

The NAE4-HA organization offers networking, professional development, and integration of scholarship, research & practice for 4-H agents. The conference is held every other October, alternating with the Galaxy conference for all Extension professionals nationally.

2012 News

fellows looking up at camera

Minnesota Walkabout Fellowship

(December 2012) The 2011-12 Minnesota Walkabout Fellowship was a year-long effort to bring experienced youth workers together in order to generate more wisdom, language, and leadership around youth worker preparation and practice in Minnesota. At both the state and national levels, a growing collection of standards, competencies, credentials, and career pathways are being established to guide and standardize youth work preparation and practice.

Read more about the Walkabout fellowship.

Margo Herman published in Youth and Policy Journal

(November 2012) Margo Herman, Minnesota Extension youth development educator, has published an article in Youth and Policy, an online journal in the UK., that outlines a reflective framework for youth work supervisors to use to further positive change in their organizations.

"Thinking Space: Reflective Practice Meets Youth Work Supervision" identifies the concepts of reflective practice, critical inquiry and action research, then proposes a framework for reflective supervisory practice in a youth work context, and analyzes the benefits of this approach.

Read the article

Dorothy Freeman receives education excellence award

(November 2012) Dorothy McCargo Freeman, Extension Center for Youth Development associate dean, is a 2012 WEM Outstanding Educator Award for Excellence in Education recipient, an honor that comes with a $10,000 award.

Freeman is one of seven educators being honored by the WEM Foundation and Synergy & Leadership Exchange for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student learning. The WEM Foundation's statewide Excellence in Education recognizes superior contributions of educators whose leadership and dedication inspire a spirit of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities outside the traditional education system and classroom.

Read more.

Testing the waterskids doing aquatic robotics on a lake

(January 2012) A new 4-H project offers youth a chance to be hands-on citizen scientists by monitoring water quality in their local areas. In the Aquatic Robotics Project, 4-H’ers build and program a remote-operated underwater vehicle to collect water samples, then test the samples. Aquatic robotics, a joint project between Extension and the US Navy, is being rolled out across Minnesota and will contribute to knowledge of watershed quality in 67 counties.

Read more in Source magazine.

2011 News

Rules of (youth) EngagementRules of youth engagement

(October 2011) How does Minnesota 4-H prepare young people to excel in college, careers and communities?

Read more in Source magazine.


Minnesota 4-H stories: Then and now

(June 2011) How does being a member of University of Minnesota Extension 4-H shape youth - both today and in past generations?
Did they find a passion for the outdoors that led to a career? Or a lifelong interest in photography?

Read the full story.

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