JEFFERSON CO., N.Y. — The Jefferson County 4-H Youth Development Program is the recipient of the Network for Youth Success 2021 Program Award of Excellence and Innovation. This award spotlights an organization, department or program that is accredited to standards of excellence through the Network for Youth Success, meets the highest of standards of quality in the field and implements programming with enriching activities that promote higher learning and incorporates collective strategies between family and the community to meet participant needs. Jefferson County 4-H was recognized during the Opening Session of the School’s Out, Make It Count 2021 Virtual Annual Conference.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Jefferson County’s 4-H Afterschool program has been in place since 2005 utilizing a variety of funds – NYS OCFS Advantage Afterschool, Empire Afterschool, 21st CCLC and Department of Defense Educational Activities to offer innovative and enriching programming to further develop higher learning. The incorporation of collective strategies between the family, the community, the schools and the program are essential. For the purposes of this award the tremendous success achieved by the Jefferson County 4-H Youth Development team during the Covid-19 pandemic in an exceptionally short time period was highlighted.
As of March 20, 2020 schools were all closed, and 4-H Youth Development staff were sent home for remote work. As of March 30, 2020, ten days later the Jefferson County 4-H Virtual Academy was launched, and remained in place through June 26, 2020. The Jefferson County 4-H Youth Development team took a 100% in-person morning, afterschool and weekend program, and turned it completely upside down to 100% virtual. The program served youth, kindergarten through 12th grades and provided family engagement and community service projects. The final participation numbers included 336 youth, with many enrolled in multiple programs, for a total of 545 registrations. Additionally, 601 maker kits were sent out, to accommodate youth that could not access virtual programming. Approximately 500 family members were served during this timeframe as well.
Regular, weekly programming for youth included – animal science, book club, makerspace, environmental science, coding, chess, nutrition and mindfulness, Minecraft, DimensionU, tabletop character building, Own the Mic, American Sign Language, Spanish and academic tutoring. We partnered with the local WPBS TV station for programming on a National Camp TV show, and prerecorded research based health and wellness youth programming. Family engagement/community service included – Paint & Sip Hot Cocoa, Mad City Money financial simulation, JoAnn Fabric (face coverings made for community), book club, family nights and much more. Several of the programs shipped materials to youth so that they had the supplies needed for hands on learning while engaging with the virtual program.
Summer rolled around and a high interest remained for programming; and we were able with limitations to start in-person programming and continue with virtual programming. Virtual programming primarily focused on two main areas: a) We planned three rounds of Camp-In-A-Box (themes outdoor adventures, nature explorations and tech camp), serving 565 youth locally and beyond. b) We received a Dollar General literacy grant for a summer reading program serving 100 youth. Evaluation results showed that 100% of parents perceived that the program met their expectations, which, according to the pre-survey data, fell into the following categories – improve his/her reading level and skills; connecting and interacting with others socially during the 4-H Summer Camp Reading Fun; and increasing their love of reading and spending more time reading books independently. In-person programming included 4-H Night Owls (astronomy program), 4-H Environmental Expeditions (exploring the great outdoors) and 4-H Science (experiments). Overall we served approximately 750 youth.
If you would like more information about this topic, please go to ccejefferson.org. There is no cost to join Jefferson County 4-H.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County
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