BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation is helping Virginia’s youth find meaningful and lasting careers in health care by forging a partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia 4-H that will ignite a passion for life sciences.
This $750,000 gift from the foundation will allow youth to gain knowledge, be exposed to life skills, gain a better understanding of future careers, and craft opportunities to start a journey toward lifelong learning in a variety of fields.
“We are incredibly thankful for the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation’s investment in Virginia’s youth and our shared future. The gift demonstrates the confidence and trust in both Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia 4-H to develop innovative learning for our youth,” said Jeremy Johnson, state 4-H leader.
The investment enables the creation of a mobile learning experience that targets rural youth and incorporates high-quality, experiential learning experiences in life sciences to engage learning for youth using Virginia 4-H’s renowned programming as the foundation.
“The mobile lab will serve as a foundation to continue lifelong learning for youth as they find their spark and interest in life and health sciences as well as connect them with careers, mentors, and future opportunities,” said Erika Bonnett, a Virginia 4-H education specialist.
The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, focused on creating opportunities in health-based careers, saw the immense value of Virginia 4-H’s expertise in empowering youth.
“Given the shortages in health care that we are currently facing, we believe that there needs to be a ‘highway’ that provides a pathway for careers in health care with ‘on and off ramps’ to create lifelong and meaningful work while supporting themselves and their families,” said Bill Hazel, the senior deputy executive director of the foundation. “The analogy in tech is the ‘tech talent pipeline’ that has received significant state funding. Not everyone is destined for tech careers, and we are pleased to work with Virginia 4-H to cultivate an interest in life sciences in youth.”
The mobile learning experience — part of the gift — will allow youth in rural communities the opportunity to participate in high-technology-based STEM learning opportunities around life and health sciences learning experiences in their backyards without the need for prohibitive travel.
Schools often do not have access to the technical equipment used in the fields of life sciences, and the mobile lab enables youth in Virginia’s communities to experience these opportunities themselves. The lab brings the science and research-backed knowledge of the land-grant institutions to the youth to advance the well-being of Virginia.
To further expand education access, Virginia 4-H will partner with the College Access Collaborative, which aims to develop talent and retain it in communities – especially in Southwest Virginia – and improve access to health care services for rural families.
This partnership emphasizes the readiness of youth to continue the learning as college students with a focus on reaching first-generation students. Youth participants will visit both Virginia Tech and Virginia State University and have learning experiences with experts in the field.
Another partnership with the Virginia 4-H Educational Centers allows life skill development in teamwork, cooperation, and independence as youth continue in-depth learning through residential experiences.
Virginia 4-H is a proven leader in youth development, and the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation is supporting the vital work in an area of national importance.
–Max Esterhuizen, Virginia Tech University