Extension ExPress, September 2022
Director’s Message: Guiding UI Extension Into the Future
Throughout November, University of Idaho Extension will be hosting critical public listening sessions in each region of the state. Based on the feedback we receive at these six meetings, we’ll be updating our comprehensive plan, which we will use to guide how we deliver educational programming to clientele during the next few years. Listening sessions are tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1 in Idaho Falls, Nov. 3 in Pocatello, Nov. 9 in Twin Falls, Nov. 10 in Boise, Nov. 29 in Lewiston and Nov. 30 in Coeur d’Alene. I’m excited about this opportunity to meet with the public, report on what we’ve accomplished throughout the past five years and receive guidance to set our course for the next few years. We’re asking that county commissioners, county Extension advisory board members, participants of the program and those yet to engage with UI Extension attend. We want to hear your thoughts as to what you want from your UI Extension program in your area. For questions, please contact me.
In addition to the in-person meetings, we’ll offer the public the opportunity to participate from a handful of selected county Extension offices if individuals live further from the locations of the in-person listening session. They’ll weigh in remotely via Zoom and engage in their own discussions with local Extension personnel. More feedback will be obtained through surveys of county commissioners, Extension employees and clients. Please take a few minutes and complete the survey when we distribute it to this list later this fall.
We last underwent this exercise in early 2017, shortly after I became director of UI Extension. We were thrilled by attendance at the in-person listening sessions, each of which drew 40 to 50 participants. Furthermore, we received completed surveys from 87 county commissioners, 1,891 clients and 127 UI Extension employees. Survey participants listed six core areas for UI Extension to prioritize: water, agriculture and horticulture, health and nutrition, youth, diversity and increasing awareness of UI Extension. Based on the data, we also crafted as our vision statement, “University of Idaho Extension: Leaders in building a thriving, prosperous and healthy Idaho.”
A lot has changed since 2017. For example, back then, our constituents overwhelmingly told us they preferred in-person meetings and activities. We’ve all become accustomed with using technology to interact remotely since then due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I expect our new data will reflect a strong shift in preference about in-person events. My goal is to present the findings of these listening sessions and surveys to Extension faculty at our annual conference in April. We’ve set a lofty goal for ourselves – helping people in our communities to build better lives. By taking the time to gather community input, we ensure we won’t miss our mark.
Associate Dean and Director
University of Idaho Extension
U of I Improving Academic Outcomes With In-School Model of 4-H Program for Latinx Youth
Cesar Sandoval entered unchartered territory among members of his family on Aug. 16 when he arrived at the University of Idaho campus, where he’ll major in mechanical engineering.
Sandoval, a recent Jerome High School graduate and the son of a migrant farmer, is a first-generation college student who attributes much of his success to the Juntos program, offered through UI Extension 4-H Youth Development.
Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish, provides resources and support to Latinx youth in grades eight through 12, helping them graduate from high school and access post-secondary education. The Jerome County program has raised the bar when it comes to brightening futures, prompting other Idaho counties to model new Juntos programs after it. Other states with Juntos programs are also taking notice: a school in North Carolina, for example, is implementing the Jerome County approach in its existing program.
While Juntos typically operates as a stand-alone, after-school 4-H program, Jerome High School – where half of the study body is Hispanic – was the first to schedule Juntos during school hours for credit as an elective course, available to freshmen through seniors.
“You get more access to the students. You get more time for daily interaction. They also have a safe space in that classroom,” said Gretchen Manker, UI Extension educator in family and consumer sciences who serves as Juntos program manager in Jerome County.
Sandoval was part of the first cohort of Jerome County Juntos graduates last May, and he’s one of five Juntos participants from the high school now enrolled as freshmen at U of I.
Sandoval credits his former Juntos advisor, Eduardo Reyes, who now works as a U of I recruiter, with pushing him to go on to college.
“I learned how to give back to everyone, and I grew as a person in Juntos,” said Sandoval, who entered the program as a high school freshman. “For someone like me who wants to learn and wants to grow as a person, you could get all the help you needed to grow as a person and keep pushing toward your goals.”
In 2022, 91% of the 44 students enrolled in Juntos graduated from Jerome High School or an alternative school. By comparison, the most recent statewide data from the Idaho State Department of Education shows about 80% of the general student population graduated from high school, including 71.8% of Latinx students.
Juntos, offered in 15 states, is made possible through partnerships involving Extension 4-H and family and consumer science agents, school and college administrators and staff and community volunteers.
Recruiters from several colleges frequently visit Jerome High School to make Juntos students aware of their options.
The Juntos coordinator and experts from the community help teach lessons in personal finance, basic cooking, nutrition, food safety, home ownership, resume writing, job interviewing and other life skills. Juntos students hear about scholarships and other financial aid options from College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) recruiters representing area colleges and universities. CAMP helps students with backgrounds in migrant or seasonal farm work succeed. Furthermore, Juntos families and students collaborate in six annual family workshops.
“The first goal of Juntos is for families and students to work together,” Manker said.
Each Juntos class also has its own 4-H club, where students learn parliamentary procedure through biweekly meetings, elect officers, maintain log books and foster speaking and leadership skills.
Juntos participant Wendy Montano, whose parents immigrated from Mexico, is poised to be the first in her family to graduate from high school, let alone attend college. Because her Juntos instructor encouraged her to take college-level courses for dual credit, she’ll also leave Jerome High School at the end of this school year with an associate degree in psychology. She’s considering the University of Idaho among her options for postsecondary education.
“Before I started Juntos, my goal was just to get through high school because nobody in my family had ever graduated from high school,” Montano said. “Juntos opens your eyes and tells you there’s more opportunities than you think. I think it’s that they support you unconditionally. They’re always believing in you.”
U of I’s Juntos program traces back to 2017, when the university awarded funds to start a two-year program to improve academic success of Latinx eighth graders at Jerome Middle School, called Go On. The program had 37 graduates.
In 2018, U of I partnered with North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University on a five-year, $1.28 million grant – half of which went to U of I – through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant established the Jerome High School Juntos program, which recently started its final year.
The Juntos program also returned for the current school year to Jerome Middle School’s eighth grade classrooms.
“I love the fact that it’s back,” said Jerome Middle School Vice Principal Sam Sharp. “I’m glad we have our eighth graders thinking about college.”
In 2019, U of I obtained another USDA-NIFA grant for $1.28 million over five years to start Juntos programs at Twin Falls Middle School, Twin Falls High School and Blaine County High School. Those programs were short-lived due to the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages. Tina Miller, UI Extension Twin Falls County 4-H educator, is well versed in the success of Juntos 4-H at Jerome schools. She’s taken the lead in using the funding to reboot the program at South Hills Middle School in Twin Falls.
“There are at least 10 counties that had at least a 50% Hispanic population that we knew we needed to do something different,” said Judith Schoenfelder, state 4-H Youth Development program specialist.
Last year, U of I led the efforts in a joint project with Washington State University to receive a five-year, $1.28 million USDA-NIFA grant to start new Idaho Juntos programs in Canyon County and Coeur d’Alene Reservation, as well as programs in Chelan and Whatcom counties in the state of Washington.
Northwest Farm Credit Services has been so impressed by Juntos that it recently donated $80,000 to fund the programs in Jerome County through the end of 2024.
“The Juntos 4-H program reaches more than 70 Latinx students in Jerome County and we respect the program’s record of success in helping many first-generation students develop a greater sense of belonging and confidence,” said Doug Robison, Idaho president of Northwest Farm Credit Services. “Students who participate in Juntos 4-H achieve higher grades and their probability of graduating from high school increases.”
A Payette County Juntos program is also planned.
Manker said, “It helps parents and youth know they can go on – that they can graduate and they have a possibility of looking in a broader way at what they can do as adults.”
The $640,000 U of I obtained through the USDA NIFA grant awarded to North Carolina State was issued under award No. 2018-41520-28749.
USDA NIFA issued the funding for the U of I-led Juntos project with Washington State under award No. 2021-41520-35353.
UI Extension Butte County Educator Partners With Middle School To Help Students Realize Potential
University of Idaho Extension educator David Callister specialized in convincing youth to explore opportunities they’d long considered out of reach during his two years of guest teaching in rural Arco’s middle school.
Shortly after Callister joined the UI Extension, Butte County staff in July 2019, he and members of his county advisory committee devised a plan to change the mindsets of some local families who deemed it unnecessary or unaffordable to continue learning after high school.
“Some of the youth get stuck here. They never see the world outside of here. They never leave here,” Callister said, explaining getting “stuck” tends to continue the cycle of poverty and sometimes leads young people to drug or alcohol abuse.
Starting in the spring of 2020, Callister collaborated with the local school district on an educational program that has made participants better prepared for the future and more hopeful by all accounts. Callister offered weekly lessons in budgeting, planning and successfully obtaining employment to eighth graders in a healthy living class at Butte County Middle School. He also repeatedly assured his students that they had the wherewithal to succeed in college or to learn a trade.
Callister used a combination of curriculum from the 4-H Build Your Future program, Northwest Youth Financial Education and Employment Feud. He obtained a small grant from the UI Extension 4-H Youth Development office to purchase workbooks that included nine lessons.
His students wrote their own resumes and they took a career aptitude test. Based on results of the test, they each researched the duties and educational and training requirements of a career of interest. They were also asked to interview someone who works in the field they chose to explore.
Each student then participated in a mock job interview with Callister and spoke about what they learned from the experience in front of the class. Callister emphasized dressing appropriately for an interview and making good eye contact, and he offered guidance on how to respond to questions.
“It gives them an idea that here are some careers you should be thinking about,” Callister said. “Some of them came back and said, ‘I learned there’s no way I want this job.’ Others said, ‘It’s the kind of thing I want to do and I’m more excited about it now.’”
Through the spring of 2022, Callister taught 70 hour-long class sessions at the middle school. According to surveys, 72% percent of participants agreed they understood the types of degrees and certifications that can be attained through post-secondary education after undergoing his lessons, compared with 54% before he taught them. His lessons also resulted in a 30% improvement in students who agreed they understood requirements of post-secondary degrees and certificates and a 16% improvement in students who understood that earning capacity is tied to career advancement. Furthermore, 95% of his participants agreed they had the skills to build a strong resume – a 21% improvement.
The program isn’t being offered this semester, but Callister hopes to resume it next spring. Callister said the program could help the school district meet a new legislative requirement enacted during the summer to offer career education prior to high school.
Wylee Nalley, a teacher at Butte Middle School who worked with Callister, said his course was eye-opening to students in her health class, many of whom were startled to learn what it costs to rent a home or pay car insurance when he taught them about budgeting. The numbers made them realize the importance of having a good job.
“I think it gave them something to work towards,” Nalley said. “I think they liked it and having a different teacher come in each week was really special to them.”
Michael Parrella, dean of U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, believes Callister’s approach holds promise to help the state improve its low rate of students who go on to college, and he believes it’s worth replicating in other counties.
“Although this is a small sample size and only for Butte County, David is making a difference – you have got to start somewhere. We need programs like this in every county in the state,” Parrella said.
Callister was raised in Butte County and ultimately chose to return to the county of 2,900. He’s hopeful that his former students will leave home and get an education and opt to return to the community with the tools to enjoy greater success.
“I went away to college. I had some experiences but, in the end, I wanted to live my life and raise my family here,” Callister said. “Maybe some of these kids will go out and stay out, and maybe some of them will go out and get their education and realize Butte County is a great place to live for other reasons.”
UI Extension Raising Awareness About Rural Mental Health Challenges
A team of University of Idaho Extension educators is seeking 17 small, agricultural communities willing to host public conversations about the elevated risk of depression and suicide in rural America, as well as local solutions to address the problem.
Each participating community will be asked to develop an action plan identifying a specific concept to help residents who may be struggling with their mental health. In exchange for completing six public discussions, each community will receive $3,000 toward implementing its idea.
Contact, Talje Hoene, UI Extension mental health program coordinator, for more information. Hoene and her team – which also includes UI Extension educators Lance Hansen, Madison County; Bracken Henderson, Franklin County; and David Callister, Butte County – plan to have all the communities selected before the end of October.
The team members underwent training to teach people how to recognize and respond to warning signs of depression and suicide. They’ll facilitate separate, complementary sessions in the rural communities, lasting six hours for youth and eight hours for adults. Those who complete the course will receive mental health first aid certification.
UI Extension is also posting billboards throughout the state – four in northern Idaho and six in the state’s southern, central and eastern regions – directing farmers and ranchers who are overwhelmed by stress to Farm Aid and the Farm Crisis Center. The billboards, which will remain posted throughout the fall, read: “Agriculture can be stressful. If you or someone you know needs resources call 1-800-FARM-AID.”
“We’re searching for small communities to work with because we’re trying to reach that harder-to-reach population. They have their own culture. They’re close-knit. They don’t necessarily seek help from outside,” Hoene said.
Communities will have the flexibility to invest their funding in a small project that best meets their unique circumstances. For example, a community might opt to expand a local food pantry or elect to buy a pizza oven for hosting civic wellness events.
The Extension team will lead the discussions. The conversations are open to anyone, but the team will prioritize farmers and others who work in agriculture, which is an especially stressful field.
According to a study published Sept. 5, 2021 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, using data from 1986 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide mortality rate per 100,000 of farmers and farm managers was 22.3, compared with 15.3 across all other occupations. A 2019 study by American Farm Bureau Federation found 87% of agricultural workers agreed cost, embarrassment and lack of awareness posed obstacles to accessing mental health care. Half of the agricultural workers said they had trouble finding a therapist in their community.
“The main thing we’re finding with this population is lack of control is a big problem,” Hoene said. “They can have a freak weather occurrence and their entire crop is ruined. A lot of farmers are having to give up their family farm because they can’t keep up with the bill payments.”
Callister understands the stress and profound disappointment of losing a family farm all too well. He’d farmed with family for 25 years in Butte County until 2018, when his family members retired and he couldn’t buy them all out. At age 53, Callister found himself seeking a new career.
“I’ve dealt with the heartache of losing a farm, feeling like I’d let past generations down because I wasn’t able to keep Grandpa’s farm going,” Callister said. “You start feeling isolated. There is still a stigma in our society – and maybe it’s more so in rural society – that you should be able to pick up and go. That’s not the case if somebody has a heart attack. You don’t tell them to buck up and deal with it.”
Callister is grateful for the opportunity to help other farmers avoid similar outcomes as an Extension educator. He’s a strong advocate for farm succession training to help farmers plan early to pass down their properties to the next generation.
Lance Hansen is aware of several recent suicides in rural Driggs, and in the early 1990s, his wife lost a couple of extended family members who were agricultural producers from Driggs to suicide.
“For me this is about just getting the discussion started,” Hansen said. “I think a lot of times there’s the discussion and that’s all there is. I’m hoping we can develop an actual plan and we can do our part as Extension agents to give them resources so they can see this further than a couple of discussions we have with them.”
As an Extension educator, Bracken Henderson has worked with a few farmers who died of suicide.
“We need to open up that dialogue so that people are willing to admit this is an issue in our agricultural communities,” Henderson said. “But that is just the first step. I hope it becomes more socially acceptable to open up when you are struggling and not just have ‘good’ as the default answer when someone asks, ‘How are you doing?’”
The program to launch community discussions and implement action plans is funded with a $200,000 Western Regional Agriculture grant. Western Regional Agriculture also awarded a separate $10,000 grant to fund the 10 billboards, which are expected to be viewed by about 275,000 motorists per week.
- 2022 Rangeland Fall Forum | Oct. 6-7 | Pocatello
The 2022 Rangeland Fall Forum will focus on sharing knowledge and resources for making conservation work for Idaho’s rangelands.
- U and I Together Series | Weekly | Online
Join University of Idaho Extension for a series of fun, virtual activities for all ages. Learn about healthy snacks, outdoor activities, art, science and more.
- Virtual Food Safety Program | Monthly | Online
Join University of Idaho Extension for a monthly workshop related to different food safety topics. All workshops are free and hosted online.
- Heritage Orchard Conference | Monthly | Online
The Heritage Orchard Conference provides a variety of presentations ranging from heritage fruit exploration to apple identification.
Visit the UI Extension calendar for a complete listing of upcoming events offered online and across the state.
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