Changing Lives Through 4-H
On a recent winter day, students in Russell Elementary’s Adventure Club are making “blubber burgers.” The less-than-appetizing-looking creations made of shortening are teaching the children about fat content in foods.
The lesson in nutrition was brought to the Moscow classroom by Trevor Kauer, an agricultural and Extension education major at UI. He worked as a nutrition advisor for the UI Extension-operated Eat Smart Idaho program, which collaborates with 4-H Food Smart Families.
Kauer grew up as an enthusiastic 4-H member on a ranch near Leadore. Now the junior in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is looking for a career in the program.
“4-H to me has changed over the years,” Kauer said. “As a child it was fun, and it was what my family did. As a teen I realized it was preparing me for college. And when I got into college I realized the reason I’m in 4-H, and the reason I love it, is that it can change kids’ lives in ways they really don’t understand at their age but later on down the road they will understand.”
The job with Eat Smart Idaho expands on his studies in family and consumer sciences and nutrition.
Eat Smart Idaho is just one of dozens of programs offered by UI Extension, which reach about 57,000 youths in Idaho from elementary through high school. Idaho’s 4-H programs are run through UI Extension and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences along with the counties.
The programs — from livestock and fair projects to nutrition education and gardening to robotics and science — provide Idaho youths from all communities with opportunities to expand their knowledge outside the classroom.
About a year ago, it took high school students Kimberly Lopez and Lorena Rivera of Caldwell all the way to the White House.
The teens were in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the University of Idaho 4-H Youth Development program and as representatives of the National 4-H Council.
For Rivera, 15, that Oval Office moment was amazing. So is 4-H. She joined as an 8-year-old after UI Extension educator Liliana Vega visited her afterschool program at Farmway Village.
“I’ve learned many things,” said Rivera, now a high school sophomore who wants to become a lawyer. “One of them is that being a leader is amazing. You get to change people while you’re being changed yourself. You learn so much about yourself while you’re learning about others.”
In addition to the White House visit, Rivera and Lopez were among 19 Idaho teens chosen for the 4-H Food Smart Families program, serving as healthy living advocates. The program, overseen by Caldwell-based 4-H Program Specialist Maureen Toomey, uses teens to teach others how to make informed nutrition decisions.
Reaching youths and helping families in their community is a key component of 4-H. In Potlatch, Latah County’s associate 4-H Extension educator Kelli Loftus created a new partnership with the school district, which led to a 21st Century Schools grant from the Idaho State Department of Education. The $159,000 grant — which is renewable for five years — allows the Potlach program to offer more than 50 elementary students a safe and enriching place to learn after school.
“4-H helps youth succeed in many different settings. Its strength relies on research-based learning, connections to a national system dedicated to helping people and community networks of caring adults,” Loftus said. “Kids learn about things they enjoy in ways that help them as adults, and they have fun, too.”
Article by Bill Loftus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences