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4-H Outreach to Military Youth Program Expanding

October 05, 2022

A University of Idaho Extension 4-H program based in the Treasure Valley serving youth from military families is expanding into the state’s eastern region.

UI Extension's 4-H Outreach to Military Youth program has been offered for several years to children of parents serving in the U.S. Army National Guard or Air National Guard at Gowen Field in Boise. The program recognizes that cycles of deployment affect children and their education, and it’s intended to provide support while they adjust to parents’ departures, absences and returns.

On a monthly basis, the program hosts youth camps on weekends when military parents must be at Gowen Field for drills.

“Military youth tend to move around a lot and not have consistency for programming and opportunities,” said Julia Villagomez, 4-H Military Partnership program coordinator. “It’s nice to be that sense of stability.”

UI Extension has hired an assistant who lives in eastern Idaho to work with youth in her region, focusing on Idaho Falls and Pocatello. The assistant hopes to host her program’s first camp in November. With no single military base with which to partner, she’s relying on UI Extension personnel to help refer participants.

The established program at Gowen Field served 1,700 youth from June through August and was recently recognized with an award from the Idaho National Guard for its efforts.

On Sept. 24, Major General Michael J. Garshak presented Villagomez and her program with the Community Purple Award. Heather Echols, manager for the 124th Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness program, nominated the UI Extension 4-H program.

During monthly camps, 4-H Outreach to Military Youth strives to offer participants a variety of lessons and activities, such as yoga learning about volunteer therapy dogs. They typically focus activities and crafts on a different country during each camp. The lessons centered on the culture of Kenya during the most recent camp. The program also sends youth to Army National Guard Child and Youth Services summer and winter camps. U of I staff also attend the summer and winter camps to teach a 4-H lesson.

The program offers a babysitting course to military teens, who help supervise groups of younger children during events and guide them through activities.

Villagomez plans to launch a mentoring program soon, which will pair children in need of support and advice with a specific program staff member. The mentoring program will be funded by a federal Office of Justice Programs grant through the National 4-H Council.

“If they need help with anything, we’re more than happy to find resources or talk with their parents,” Villagomez said. “They feel like there is someone who cares.”

Villagomez often receives validation from parents. She recently received an email from a parent who told her about a school assignment asking her daughter to identify her favorite place in Boise. The daughter chose military 4-H camp.

“The parents always come up to me and say, ‘Thank you so much. This is really helpful; my kids love coming,’” Villagomez said.

The program received funding through a sub-award from Kansas State University before securing its own one-year grant — $1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, awarded by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. That grant ended in August. The program began operating under a second one-year ARPA grant through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, for $750,000, in September.

Published in Catching Up with CALS

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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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