Building a Better Future
When the University of Idaho launched its Enroll Idaho initiative in 2015, the UI Extension 4-H Youth Development program saw an opportunity to expand an already successful 4-H curriculum to reach more Idaho youth.
The Build Your Future: Choices…Connections…Careers 4-H curriculum is designed to help youth develop skills and knowledge in career exploration. Participants experience a variety of activities, such as developing a career plan, competing in a quiz bowl, creating a portfolio, analyzing case studies and discussing questions that reflect on their experiences.
“The idea was to go into groups of teens who have never been in 4-H or influenced by 4-H and try to reach them with a career exploration curriculum,” said Carrie Johnson, UI Extension educator in Canyon County.
Johnson and colleague Brian Luckey began integrating the curriculum into environments outside of 4-H in January. They identified five sites; three in the Treasure Valley, one in Cassia County and one in Kootenai County.
Approximately 116 teens participated in the initial launch of the program. The curriculum features nine lessons, but Johnson and Luckey decided to choose five of the lessons for site leaders to focus on. If a student completed four out of the five lessons, they became eligible to attend the Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC) on the UI campus in Moscow at the end of June. Participation at STAC is paid for by the University of Idaho for Build Your Future participants.
“The idea is that if they complete the lessons they will get to go see the University of Idaho campus,” Johnson said. “We already know that 4-Hers are more likely to go on to post-secondary education and so this program is trying to reach kids who aren’t in 4-H and hopefully help increase the likelihood that they will go on. I think the campus visit is something that really adds value to the program versus sitting in a classroom wherever they are in the state and just talking about careers and career development.”
Meeting Teens Where They Are
Johnson, Luckey and Idaho 4-H Director Jim Lindstrom worked together to identify potential sites across the state to launch the program. The only qualification for utilizing the program is that students must be in eighth to 12th grade. For the initial launch, the 4-H team was also looking for groups of potential first-generation college students.
“We let each site setup how it would work within their group,” Johnson said. “One program was run through the Future Hispanic Leaders of America Club at a public school. One was an afterschool program, one was facilitated during actual class time. We allowed them to have the freedom to make it work within their population.”
As the program coordinator, Johnson is responsible for training the facilitators, helping them get materials, answering questions and evaluating the program. She also helped sign up participants to attend STAC and presented a workshop to participants at the convention.
The five lessons focus on activities that go in-depth into possible careers. Participants begin building a career portfolio, researching the cost of getting started in a career, the type of education they would need and what kind of pay they can expect.
Plans for the future include expanding to additional sites, incorporating financial planning activities and the involvement of more UI Extension educators. The expansion was supported by UI’s Vandal Ideas Project, an internal grant program funded by the Office of the President. Build Your Future was awarded $26,015 to take the program to 10 sites statewide and reach 200 teens.
Johnson sees the hands-on focus of the curriculum, the ability to come to campus and the flexibility of the program as the keys to its success.
“The flexibility that we’ve been able to add is valuable,” Johnson said. “The program can be done through a club or in an afterschool setting. It can be done in class time.
The facilitators were really excited about the campus visit,” Johnson said. “A lot of the participants don’t have the ability to do a campus visit financially. Getting them all the way up north could be life changing for them – to see that this is a real possibility for them. They get to see the university, maybe meet some professors that could really have a profound effect on them. I think that was something that really excited everyone when we started talking about this.”
Story by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences