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Guiding Texas youth toward a bright future

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Guiding Texas youth toward a bright future

BY Paul Schattenberg


The Texas 4-H program offers youth countless opportunities to develop the skills they need to create positive change in their life. One of the most impactful opportunities 4-H offers is the ability for high school students to get a close-up look at some possibilities for their future.

In Texas, the 4-H program is administered through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, an educational outreach agency of Texas A&M AgriLife.

“Our individual Texas 4-H clubs periodically offer programs that give high school students a firsthand look at state colleges and universities, as well as introduce them to some interesting career opportunities,” said Montza Williams, Ph.D., state 4-H program director, Bryan-College Station. 

Williams said the Texas 4-H program promotes higher education. He noted that a recent study by the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences of Texas A&M AgriLife shows high school graduates who participated in Texas 4-H for at least two years were better equipped to complete postsecondary education. They also acquired more marketable skills as compared to the general student population of Texas.

“One of our ongoing 4-H project areas is for workforce and career preparation,” he said. “Through that project, we have a curriculum and provide experiences that expose youth to career opportunities throughout the year.”

Multiple additional Texas 4-H programs that introduce youth to higher education and career opportunities are offered from time to time in different areas of the state, Williams said.

4-H Summer Leadership Academy The 4-H Summer Leadership Academy provides an opportunity for San Antonio area 4-H club members in ninth and 10th grade to participate in a five-day college experience at Our Lady of the Lake University.

Most of the students who participate are from 4-H clubs in low-income areas of the city and are considered at higher risk for not seeking higher education, primarily due to their financial situation.

“The goal of the program is to provide the students with a true higher education experience and show them the importance of personal responsibility, organization and time management,” Williams said. “The students stayed in a campus dormitory, ate at the university cafeteria and went to classes on the university’s campus.”

4-H Career Opportunities Reflecting Excellence Academy In another opportunity given this summer, a group of students in grades nine through 12 from schools in southwestern Texas had the unique opportunity to explore career options and visit some Texas universities through their participation in the 4-H Career Opportunities Reflecting Excellence, CORE, Academy.

“The goal of this program is to provide youth an opportunity to explore career and leadership opportunities in a diverse global economy as well as learn about post-secondary degree institutions across Texas,” said Michael Haynes, AgriLife Extension district administrator for the agency’s 21-county Southwest District 10 headquartered in Uvalde.

Haynes said the three-day program allowed students from Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall and Kerr counties to connect with academic personnel who could help guide their career choices. It also gave them the opportunity to tour area businesses and meet with industry professionals who introduced them to career possibilities.

Haynes said the agenda for this CORE Academy program was developed by a planning committee of AgriLife Extension 4-H youth development agents and family and community health agents in the four counties involved.

“This was a unique program developed by this group of agents,” he said. “They selected the locations and coordinated the visits.” 

Some of the areas of businesses the students were exposed to included hospitality and tourism, business and corporate careers, international relations, law enforcement, food and nutrition, research and wildlife photography.

During the CORE Academy program, students visited Texas A&M Corpus Christi; Texas A&M Kingsville; PICO Oil and Gas, McAllen; Southern Roots International Flower Market Boutique, McAllen; SOARD Solutions aerospace company, McAllen; and Texas A&M Coastal Marine Laboratory, South Padre Island.

Texas 4-H Learn, Empower, Apply and Develop Academy The Texas 4-H Learn, Empower, Apply and Develop, LEAD, Academy in conjunction with the Texas 4-H Roundup is for members in grades eight through 12. Through this week-long program, participants gain practical, next-level leadership skills intended to give them a heightened sense of responsibility and increase their capacity to connect as active members of their communities, nation and world..

“In a typical year, this event engages youth in hands-on educational activities in which they explore, practice and master existing and newly developed skills,” said Megan Logan, AgriLife Extension 4-H youth development specialist in leadership and citizenship, Bryan-College Station.

Logan, who coordinates the LEAD Academy, said the program also seeks to broaden youth understanding of the importance of civic engagement and education and personal development in becoming a good citizen.

“From this experience, we hope those young people who attend/participate will apply what was learned to make a difference in their communities,” she said.

Logan also noted there is a LEAD Academy Adult Volunteer Track geared toward 4-H parents, adult volunteers, and AgriLife Extension employees.

“Through this track, parents and volunteers can connect and network with other volunteers and parents,” she explained. “It is an opportunity for volunteers to sharpen their skills to better assist 4-H members in their clubs or projects.”

 4-H Veterinary Science Camp As another means of capturing youth interest and introducing them to possible career opportunities, Texas 4-H also presents a 4-H Veterinary Science Camp at Texas A&M.

The camp is a collaboration between AgriLife Extension and the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. 

“The camp is part of the veterinary science certificate program,” said Tyler Vogel, AgriLife Extension program specialist, Amarillo, who helps coordinate the program. “The program addresses aspects of equine, beef cattle, cattle handling and restraint. We also discuss nutrition, fever ticks and Beef Quality Assurance practices. All of the students participating in the camp leave BQA certified.”

Vogel said participants also see some of the beef cattle research taking place at the university. “During this week of learning opportunities, including those of a clinical nature, participants acquire knowledge and skills they can apply to their career path, whether it be as a veterinarian or research scientist,” Vogel said. 

Through theTexas 4-H Ambassador program, older youth learn about specific areas of interest and are encouraged to share their knowledge with younger members and other youth. 

“In these programs, older 4-H members receive instruction about their chosen area of interest from educators, professionals and knowledgeable adult leaders,” Williams said. “During their involvement in the program, they are also introduced to some of the career possibilities related to that area of interest.”

Some of the ambassador programs offered through Texas 4-H for high school members include: — STEM Ambassador Program: In this program, a statewide team works in a youth adult partnership to promote, educate and inspire others in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The team promotes STEM-related topics to other 4-H members and volunteers, as well as groups outside of 4-H. Some of its program areas include robotics, photography and video production.

d video production. — Water Ambassadors Program: This program provides 4-H members and youth an opportunity to gain advanced knowledge they can share related to the protection, conservation and management of water in Texas.

 — Healthy Texas Youth Ambassador Program: This program is made up of youth who are passionate about health and committed to being advocates for healthy living in their communities. Youth ambassadors are empowered to educate and make a difference as they provide leadership by providing other youths with educational programs on what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

 Livestock Ambassador Program: This program gives members the opportunity to develop and practice animal husbandry and livestock management skills, along with the opportunity to mentor other youth on animal agriculture. 

— Texas 4-H Fashion and Interior Design Ambassador Program: This provides members the opportunity to develop and practice advanced leadership skills by mentoring other youth as they become knowledgeable representatives for the promotion and advancement of fashion and interior design.

“One of our goals with the Texas 4-H program is to help young people prepare for postsecondary education and assist them in developing the skills needed to be successful in their chosen career,” Williams said. “Programs and camps like these offered through Texas 4-H provide a unique learning opportunity for not only our 4-H members, but also other Texas youth with whom they share their knowledge and experience.”




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