Good Afternoon: My name is Chris Bennett and I’m a candidate for the County 4-H Agent position in your Extension Service office. I’d like to thank your Director, Ms. Green-Holley and Ms. BJ Okleshen for arranging to have me speak before you today. Over the next 15 minutes, I will accomplish four things: I’ll provide an overview of the issues facing Gates County’s limited resource audience for 4-H and other Extension services I’ll identify necessary strategies and approaches to address these issues I’ll name and explain 4-H programs I hope to build upon, develop and implement to deliver on these strategies, while… Identifying the persons, entities and services with whom I’ll collaborate to deliver successful programs At the conclusion of my presentation, I will be happy to respond to any questions or comments you might have regarding the information I’ve shared. Is there anything else I need to cover before I begin? If not, then let’s put together the picture of issues facing Gates County’s neediest youth and adults…
According to data posted online by Gates County Commissioners and your Extension Service office, the issues confronting our limited resource children and their care-givers are many; they are long-standing and some are even cyclical in nature. Among them are: One in six workers unemployed One-fifth of the county population at or below federal poverty level Three-quarters of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch programs One in 10 children not completing high school A pregnancy rate of more than one in three teenage girls All the State’s top five health concerns ranking above state averages in incidence No available public housing, and… A growing potential for interpersonal conflict which exists with an influx of non-farm residents A strategic approach is required to identify root causes of these issues, prioritize the causes which can be addressed by community and Cooperative Extension resources, and selec t partnerships, programs and tactics to overcome the negative, cyclical nature of many of these issues. Fortunately, in its wisdom, the Gates County CES and its related advisory committees, have crafted a plan of work for 2009-10 which outlines many of the strategies to combat these issues.
According to the 2009 Gates County CES plan of work, these are the strategies that experience, analysis, and expertise have identified to best tackle the issues previously identified: Acquisition of personal leadership and decision-making skills , focused on developing critical thinking processes, individual character definition and self-esteem Development and strengthening of critical life skills, to deal with the harsh economic realities of the times, stretching resources, and locating and using social safety nets in times of need Development of volunteers to address community issues affecting them and their neighbors the most; rather than applying a “one size fits all” approach to program design and promotion Establishment of a culture rewarding commitment to healthy eating and physical activities to reduce the incidence of the five major health concerns in Gates County Motivation to apply sound personal finance practices, including an understanding of credit spending and credit worthiness , and its impact on an individual’s future Provision of information and motivation for students to prioritize and achieve academically, fostering an in-depth understanding of the benefits of their diploma or degree in a competitive workforce The question remains, however, “what resources, programs and activities will transform these strategies into meaningful, outcomes-oriented and measurable interventions? “
There are three approaches to deliver on strategies for enhancing the lives of limited resource County youth and adults through the 4-H program. To be effective, each should be developed and implemented concurrently, so as to address the greatest number of participants and the largest number of issues in a timely manner. These three program efforts include: Expanding on existing successful programs, Developing targeted special interest programs, and Building a network of 4-H community clubs The three existing county 4-H programs listed on this slide, if currently being delivered, make use of state extension programs and local resources to attend to at least five of the Gates County issues previously mentioned. Once in position, I will assess the current status of each, evaluate impacts and identify areas for enhancement or expansion, if and where warranted. It will be important to verify whether the issues initially considered when implementing these programs are still priority problem areas for Gates’ citizens.
A second program approach to tackling limited resource issues will be the development and implementation of 4-H Special Interest programs in the areas of : Nutrition and health Physical fitness Finance Community issues A first step in planning for these programs is a needs assessment, using interviews and other focus group techniques to ensure the resultant programs target the right audience, in ways that are relevant, meaningful and reasonable to act upon, once the intervention has been completed. As is made plain by the topic titles, these programs will rely upon available Extension materials and available subject matter experts to be delivered effectively. I look at these programs as a unique opportunity to identify and enlist community resources as presenters and volunteers, building not only our volunteer base, but contributing to our positive reputation as understanding and acting upon community challenges in an inclusive and effective way.
The third delivery method to meet the needs of our limited resource audience is through the development of traditional 4-H clubs, built upon a strong volunteer network, proven Extension content and materials, and committed local staff support and commitment to success. Community 4-H clubs complement our other two program methodologies by offering a foundation for volunteer adults and interested youth, specifically; A means to contribute to the development and growth of a community, and a sense of belonging to a group of like-motivated individuals An opportunity for children to explore areas of interest and potential career options A framework for youth to build a talent for project management: from idea inception through completion Meaningful project work to build individual confidence and character; differentiators in a competitive job market A supportive, nurturing environment in which guidance, reinforcement and positive recognition are offered in direct relation to the effort a member puts into her or his work.
The three-pronged program highlighted here does not happen with just the good intentions of a dedicated local 4-H professional staff. To be successful, each collaborator and network listed needs to be considered and/or consulted. State 4-H program resources and materials must be available for program development and volunteer and member support Our local advisory committees, comprised of “those in the know” with respect to community issues , must be consulted and stand supportive of our efforts Where appropriate, our local board of County Commissioners should be consulted for their unique insight into County priorities and potential resources In-house subject matter experts, including our Consumer Services Agent and EFNEP Extension Associate are invaluable in providing audience, content and delivery suggestions. These professionals know who to go to and for what support, when it comes to issues relating to life skills, health and nutrition in our community. Local schools and their administrators are critical to the success of any Special Interest program or in-town camp experience Places of worship, and civic organizations are appropriate collaborators in securing facilities, topic presenters, adult volunteers, and means of program promotion Social networking sites should not just be used for awareness and promotion, but also for ancillary learning programs, webinars, leader forums, on-line recognition and the development of a virtual social community of 4’H’ers Investigate and make full use of the available print and electronic media commitment to support of public service events we offer And lastly-and most importantly-none of what’s been mentioned here can be fully realized without the establishment and support of a viable, strong volunteer network.
These are the primary sources of information I used in the preparation of the presentation. My brief presentation today has addressed four content objectives: Provided an overview of the issues facing Gates County’s limited resource audience for 4-H and other Extension services Identified necessary strategies and approaches to address these issues Named and explained 4-H programs I hope to build upon, develop and implement to deliver on these strategies, and Identified the persons, entities and services with whom I’ll collaborate to deliver successful programs I hoped they were explained to your satisfaction, and are representative of the deep respect I hold for the work of all extension professionals in developing our youth to their fullest potential.
Thank you very much for your attentiveness and interest in my presentation. At this time, I’ll be pleased to respond to any questions relating to my work. I look forward to meeting with each of you individually and planning the future of Gates County 4-H. Thanks again.
November 19, 2009 Christopher Bennett, M.S. Your County 4-H
Issues for Limited Resource Audiences
Strategies to Address Issues
Programs Designed to Deliver Strategies
Needed Collaboration and Networks
A Presentation to County Cooperative Extension Service by Chris Bennett, M.S. November 19, 2009
Issues For Limited Resource 4-H Audiences in Your County
17% county unemployment
20% of population below federal poverty level
74% of students qualify for free or reduced lunches
10% of youth do not complete high school
37% teenage pregnancy rate
Top health concerns rank above state averages
No public housing
Conflict potential exists with an influx of non-farm residents