CYFAR Community Grantees

Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk (CYFAR) Sustainable Community Project Grantees represent a variety of communities across the United States and territories. Grantees are selected through a grant application process each year. The funds are used to improve the quality and quantity of comprehensive community-based programs for at-risk children, youth, and families supported by the Cooperative Extension System. Additional information about CYFAR and the CYFAR grant process can be found on the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture website.

Funded projects are listed below.

Note: Different grant descriptions may use different terms to describe participants for which multiple terms exist. For example, terms such as Latinx, Latin@, Latino/a, or Latino may be used to describe participants in Sustainable Community Projects, all being potentially acceptable descriptors depending on participant identification. This decision to forgo the use of a single, uniform term across grants follows the suggestion by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) that the term with which participants most identify be used to describe them.

 

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Alabama: Parent-Child Financial Literacy in Progress Program

Grant Name:

Parent-Child Financial Literacy in Progress Program

Grant Description:

The Parent-Child Financial Literacy in Progress Program is an intervention/prevention program aimed at increasing the financial knowledge and skills of parents and their children (4–10 years). The program supports the overall skill development of at-risk parents and their children through high-context, weekly programming in money management at three community sites that are in high poverty stricken areas in Madison and Greene counties. Money Smart for Young People will be used for teaching children about money, and Extension's Financial Literacy in Progress Curriculum will be used for teaching the parents. Parents and children will be trained separately, and then parents will have the opportunity to apply the strategies they have learned with their children at the end of each lesson. The overall goal of the project is to teach parents basic financial knowledge and skills that will help them improve their overall financial well-being while also developing and enhancing their skills in teaching their children positive financial behaviors through direct instructions and vicarious learning.

Contact(s):

Dorothy Brandon, Alabama A&M

Alaska: 4-H Dream Catchers Sustainable Community Project

Grant Name:

4-H Dream Catchers Sustainable Community Project

Grant Description:

Alaska 4-H’s Dream Catchers project uses a combination of experiential learning activities, natural and programmatic mentoring, and evidence-based curricula delivery to reach at-risk teens in state supervision: detention/probation (Site 1) and foster/independent living (including homeless teens; Site 2). Building upon work accomplished under a 2014 CYFAR grant, Dream Catchers expands previous collaborations, incorporating new career mentoring approaches and other program enhancements, such as opportunities for paid internships and small business development, in response to persistent deficits experienced by these teen groups when aging out of or leaving state supervision. Anticipated program outcomes are that (a) teens build a diverse and caring network of adult mentors, both professional and personal, which (b) supports them and gives them resources for developing and enhancing skills in social competency, workforce development, and entrepreneurship. Dream Catchers’ long-term goals align with the 4-H Thriving Model which predicts long-term developmental outcomes of academic/vocational success, contribution to others through civic engagement, employability and economic stability, and happiness and well-being when using the model in positive youth development programming. Youth will have hope for the future and see themselves as active participants in deciding their futures, giving them reasons to trust, turn to, and seek out caring adults to support and mentor them. Program efficacy will be measured using the 4-H Thriving Model Program Evaluation, the CYFAR Common Measure: Workforce Preparation 15-item tool, and qualitative evaluation methods specifically designed by the project evaluator for use with protected populations.

Contact(s):

Mara Bacsujlaky, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Alaska: Growing Knowledgeable and Health-Conscious Generation in Alaska

Grant Name:

University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Sustainable Community Project – Growing Knowledgeable and Health-Conscious Generation in Alaska

Grant Description:

The Growing Strong Program is a 4-H club designed to improve youth and family physical activity and eating behaviors, nutrition knowledge, and plant science knowledge. The program uses evidence-based curricula, including Learn, Grow, Eat, & Go! and Junior Master Gardener. Youth participating in these curricula have shown a reduction in BMI and improved eating and physical activity behaviors, and families have increased gardening, meal preparation, and family meals. Youth meet weekly for activities including fall and spring school vegetable gardens, student garden journals and blogging, fresh vegetable tastings, easy vegetable recipe demonstrations they can then take home, preparation and participation in 4-H food contests, family stories aligned with Alaska Teaching Standard (English/Spanish), and family nights. Additional opportunities include the Walk Across Alaska program, home engagement activities, and family newsletters. Youth have ongoing opportunities as officers and youth leaders. The program is multilevel, reaching both youth and parents for activities and leadership opportunities.

Contact(s):

Marla Lowder, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Arizona: Reducing Family Stress

Grant Name:

Reducing Family Stress

Grant Description:

The University Of Arizona Reducing Family Stress Sustainable Community Project uses a two-generation approach that is both trauma informed and grounded in a theoretical framework of the Family Stress Model, recognizing that economic stressors contribute to adverse parenting. This project uses a multifaceted program model alongside research-based curricula (e.g., Positive Discipline of Teens and Building Financial Security) and experiential learning to foster positive parent–child interactions, improve the emotional and financial well-being of the family, and increase positive parenting practices that result in financial socialization within the family unit. We enhance family connectedness to community resources by promoting interface between families and the local social support system and help develop opportunities for positive youth development through 4-H programming. This CYFAR program serves 60–70 families annually with family-centered, intergenerational, and community-engaged programming with an emphasis on positive parenting of teens, financial literacy/parenting, youth financial education, and community connectedness. Educators are bilingual, and materials are available in Spanish and English; curricula, materials, and program delivery will be culturally respectful and appropriate for the audience; and best practices in program delivery will be followed. The Community Research, Evaluation, and Development team at the University of Arizona provides program evaluation oversight. Sustainability focuses on developing long-term relationships with Extension for continued program outreach and fostering the development of 4-H Clubs.

Contact(s):

Daniel McDonald, University of Arizona

Arizona: Promote Early Language and Literacy Development in Native Communities

Grant Name:

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Sustainable Community Project to Promote Early Language and Literacy Development in Native Communities

Grant Description:

This project proposes developing a comprehensive, community-based, and sustainable program to promote young children’s early literacy in two American Indian communities in Arizona. This program uses research-based components to increase the amount of time caregivers spend reading with young children, improve the quality of caregivers’ book reading practices, and increase the use of nonbook reading activities that promote early literacy. Project staff will also enhance community capacity to sustain high-quality early literacy programming that is culturally responsive. The program design is guided by an ecological approach where coordinated programming addresses multiple contexts in which the child develops. The initial year will be devoted to program planning, with family-level programs introduced during the 2nd and 3rd years and community-level programs during the 4th and 5th years. This project complements ongoing community-based early literacy programming and expands current Extension programming.

Contact(s):

Katherine Speirs, University of Arizona

Arizona: FARMacy: A Prescription for a Healthier Community

Grant Name:

University of Arizona—FARMacy: A Prescription for a Healthier Community

Grant Description:

The FARMacy is a teen-facilitated produce prescription program that enriches teens’ expertise in managing regularly scheduled, full-scale, community events that build nutrition security in the community. The program is unique in combining positive youth development principles with addressing nutrition security, reducing health inequities, and reducing food waste. This program is tailored to the needs of teens in our community and engages teens in projects that provide them with skills and opportunities to be leaders in improving the health and well-being of the community. Teens are immersed in leadership development activities that focus on teaching seed-to-table nutrition, including hosting large community education and activity events for families. These events provide teens with opportunities to engage community members from toddlers to grandparents in harvesting from our gardens, preparing produce, cooking produce, sampling novel produce, and running retail farmers markets. The next step is providing the opportunity for teens to share their experience and expertise with peers to adapt the HLA-FARMacy program to another community site, creating a blueprint for statewide expansion.

Contact(s):

Elizabeth Sparks, University of Arizona

California/Maryland: ResilientRoots - University of California and University of Maryland Eastern Shores 4-H Sustainable Community Project

Grant Name:

ResilientRoots - University of California and University of Maryland Eastern Shores 4-H Sustainable Community Project

Grant Description:

ResilientRoots, a collaboration between the University of California and the University of Maryland Eastern Shores 4-H Sustainable Community Project, aims to empower low-income Latino and Black middle school youth by providing culturally relevant environmental education and engaging them in youth-led service learning projects. The program focuses on building community climate resilience and fostering knowledge about climate and environmental justice issues. Implemented across three California counties (San Mateo, San Diego, and Sonoma) and three Maryland counties (Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester), the project leverages existing relationships with community partners to deliver high-quality, impactful programming. Youth will participate in fifteen sessions, exploring local environments, understanding climate impacts, and developing service projects to address these issues. The program draws on established curricula, such as Project Learning Tree and Climate Smart, and incorporates AI and mapping tools to enhance technological literacy. Service projects may include improving access to outdoor recreational areas, increasing tree canopy cover, or educating communities about severe climate weather preparedness. By emphasizing positive youth development, the program fosters critical life skills, scientific literacy, and civic engagement. Educators trained in positive youth development and trauma-informed practices will facilitate these sessions, ensuring a safe, inclusive environment. The initiative aims to build long-term capacity among educators and partner organizations, ensuring sustainability beyond the grant period. Through consistent engagement, youth will develop resilience, leadership skills, and a commitment to addressing community issues, ultimately becoming informed and active participants in public policy discourse related to climate justice. This approach not only addresses immediate educational needs but also prepares youth for future roles in mitigating and adapting to climate change, thereby fostering a generation of environmentally conscious leaders.

Contact(s): 

Sallie Neas, University of California ANR

California/Nevada: 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council

Grant Name:

University of California and University of Nevada, Reno SCP: 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council

Grant Description:

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) will integrate the 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council (SNAC) program into communities in San Luis Obispo County, California; El Dorado County, California; and Clark County, Nevada (NV), where a high percentage of youth and families are Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible and are eligible for the free and reduced price meals program. The target audiences for the 4-H SNAC Clubs programming are school-age children (K–8) and families in low-income schools. The program will serve youth that are at increased risk for negative outcomes: undernourishment; neglect; poor health; substance abuse; teenage pregnancy; crime; violence; and academic underachievement due to family, community, social, political, and economic conditions that they did not create. The 4-H SNAC Club program model will be expanded through a partnership between the University of California 4-H, CalFresh (SNAP-Ed), NV 4-H, NV Expanded Food and Nutrition Extension Programs, NV SNAP-Ed, local schools, and community partners. Community health and youth development professionals will design interventions at the social and environmental level to address social determinants of health impacting youth. Through this partnership, the program will also provide opportunities for youth to learn valuable healthy living, advocacy, and peer mentoring skills. Based on the outcomes achieved by similar projects, it is expected that participants will have (a) improved nutritional and physical health knowledge and practices, (b) improved confidence in leadership and presentation skills, (c) increased career readiness, and (d) increased self-efficacy for being an advocate of health.

Contact(s):

Anne Iaccopucci, University of California

Colorado: Family Engagement: Bringing Families and Decision Makers Together for Collaboration

Grant Name:

Family Engagement: Bringing Families and Decision Makers Together for Collaboration

Grant Description:

This program model develops a synergistic relation between the research-based, 2-generation Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI) curriculum and a unique dual-capacity collaboration training for FLTI participants and public administrators. FLTI provides leadership development and civic education training for family and community leaders who are dedicated to community engagement but may be impeded by limited leadership and civic skills to effect systems and policy changes for youth and families. Participants attend a 1-day retreat and 20 weekly, 3-hour training sessions. The adult and youth components run concurrently. Interactive training sessions focus on leadership and personal development, community needs assessment, development of collaborative networks, communication using a variety of media options, and how policy affects outcomes for families. Adult and youth participants apply lessons learned by planning and implementing an individual community project that serves others. In addition, a dual-capacity collaboration training adapted from the Strategic Doing© model (Morrison, 2013) and the Public Executive Leadership Academy (PELA; Getha-Taylor & Morse, 2013) will be developed. The training will focus on bringing together the content and context experts to build mutual respect and trust; networks for collaboration; securing agreements for collective action; and community action plans to address complex community social, health, and workforce issues. Additionally, the model includes the development of a network of local partners through a civic design team to assist in building a community network of support for family and youth leaders.

Contact(s):

Patti Schmitt, Colorado State University

Colorado: Sustainable Community Project for a Family-Inclusive Lifestyle Program for Teenagers in Rural Colorado

Grant Name:

Sustainable Community Project for a Family-Inclusive Lifestyle Program for Teenagers in Rural Colorado

Grant Description:

The Healthy Living Program (HeLP)/La Vida Saludable is an evidence-based, community-delivered, whole-family-inclusive lifestyle program designed to support mental health and healthy weight for teens from low-income families. HeLP was designed for dissemination, a paradigm that involves developing community-based programs from research knowledge through systematic incorporation of stakeholder input through every stage of design and implementation. This approach offers high potential to reduce disparities because, consistent with community-based participatory research principles, it incorporates inherent wisdom/knowledge possessed by communities—critical to feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness, and sustainability. HeLP includes a teen component, parent/caregiver component, and family component for four key modules. The teen component includes teen group exercise training and teen group mindfulness training for stress management. School-age siblings participate in exercise training, and preschool-age siblings participate in a food exposure experience to increase acceptance of healthy foods. The parent/caregiver component includes parent education and tools (e.g., goal setting, structure) to support family lifestyle change. All caregivers are invited to attend (i.e., mother/father figures, grandparents, etc.). The family component involves skill-building through hands-on cooking, meal planning, shopping, and family mealtime, with all family members included.

Contact(s):

Lauren Shomaker, Colorado State University

Florida: Strengthening Families in Florida to Prevent Youth Substance Abuse

Grant Name:

Strengthening Families in Florida to Prevent Youth Substance Abuse

Grant Description:

To address the increase in opioid-related deaths and the trend of youth fatalities due to fentanyl, this program focuses on implementing the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10–14 (SFP: 10–14) in Florida. This evidence-based program targets both youth and parents, aiming to reduce youth problem behaviors and substance use through goal setting, social skills development, and strengthening parenting skills. The implementation team, comprising land-grant academic faculty and Extension specialists, collaborates with community partners to ensure effective delivery and support. The need to shift community-based family programs from a deficit to a strengths-based perspective, address the normalization of vaping among youth, and provide additional support for family-based programming has been identified. Desired outcomes include increased awareness of opioid use and vaping consequences, improved parenting strategies, better youth coping skills, and enhanced family relationships, ultimately reducing the likelihood of substance misuse and improving overall family well-being.

Contact(s): 

Jenee Duncan, University of Florida

Hawaii: Creating a Village for Transition Into Adulthood

Grant Name:

Creating a Village for Transition Into Adulthood Through Youth-Adult Partnerships, Teen Mentoring, and Community Sustainability

Grant Description:

The Creating a Village project is a multilevel educational intervention supported through the incorporation of several positive youth development models. It is designed to provide education, mentorship, and leadership opportunities to all participants in the program. It utilizes a four-part format: (a) skills mastery in life management skills such as culinary, healthy living, financial literacy, and agricultural science, which has been a growing demand from the community and incorporates UH Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources expertise; (b) mentorship by teens following the 4-H Ready to Go Mentor Training Toolkit curriculum; (c) adult-youth partnerships through which community adults with specific skill sets related to the skills mastery program work with youth to develop a mutually beneficial joint project; and (d) a pilot program that compares the no-fee program implemented during Years 2–5 of the grant cycle with a postgrant, sliding-fee-based program offered to both at-risk and general public audiences as a means of sustaining project outreach. All levels of the program will incorporate content relevant to educational and career pathways to support youth in workforce preparedness, including soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving.

Contact(s):

Heather Greenwood-Junkermeier, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Nancy Ooki, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Idaho: Juntos

Grant Name:

Juntos Idaho

Grant Description:

Juntos Idaho, the University of Idaho's Sustainable Community Project, will focus on the CYFAR Teen Outcome, involving middle and high school Latino students and parents in a robust club program; improve academic outcomes and college and career awareness; and provide enriching activities to support skill building. The University of Idaho's Sustainable Community Project will use the Juntos program model and curriculum developed by North Carolina State University Extension. Juntos Idaho will serve two sites in central Idaho: Blaine County and Twin Falls County. Collaborating partners are the Blaine County School District, I Have a Dream Foundation, College of Southern Idaho Blaine County Community Campus, Blaine County Housing Authority Balmoral Community, and Twin Falls Extension. The Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, College of Southern Idaho, community partners, schools, and 4-H extension faculty will provide the four components of Juntos Idaho programming: (a) teen/parent weekly workshops, (b) teen-directed 4-H clubs and community activities, (c) one-on-one success coaching and mentoring, and (d) campus visits to introduce requirements for careers. Program evaluation includes CYFAR Common Measures Core Competencies (Program Quality, Demographics, Participation), Juntos parent and youth surveys, workforce preparation assessment, and 4-H Common Measures of College/Career Readiness.

Contact(s):

Judith McShane, University of Idaho

Idaho/Washington: DIVE4Tech

Grant Name:

DIVE4Tech Joint Sustainable Community Project: A University of Idaho and Washington State University Collaboration

Grant Description:

This project focuses on increasing high school graduation rates and college aspirations for at-risk and vulnerable Latinx and Native American teens while increasing their workforce readiness, technology skills, resilience, and social protective factors. DIVE4Tech’s goals are to improve student attendance and grades, increase the sense of belonging among Latinx and Native American students and families in schools and communities, increase family engagement, increase teen use of technology for developing workforce skills, and increase the percentage of Latinx and Native American students graduating high school and attending higher education. This project will accomplish these goals by focusing on four core areas that have been shown to consistently promote and improve academic success: parental involvement, success coaching and case management, 4-H Clubs, and college visits. In this project, Latinx and Native American youth in Grades 6–12 (ages 11–19) will be served over 5 years.

Contact(s):

Judith McShane, University of Idaho

Nancy Deringer, Washington State University

Indiana: Juntos

Grant Name:

Purdue University - Indiana CYFAR Sustainable Community Project – Juntos

Grant Description:

Juntos Indiana will provide Latino youth and their parents in Indiana communities with resources covering 4-H Life Skills, dropout prevention, mental health, social condition, academic success, and workforce and college preparation.

Contact(s):

Casey Mull, Purdue University

Iowa: Acceptance Commitment Therapy Program for Custodial Grandchildren and Custodial Grandparents

Grant Name:

Acceptance Commitment Therapy Program for Custodial Grandchildren and Custodial Grandparents

Grant Description:

Currently, there are more than three million custodial grandparents providing care for their grandchildren without the presence of birth parents in the United States. Due to earlier exposure to adversity, custodial grandchildren often exhibit emotional and behavioral difficulties at home and at school. Custodial grandparents also experience depression and anxiety from the stress of childcare and face health challenges due to aging. Despite their needs and challenges, both groups are underserved, with little access to social and technical resources.

Contact(s):

Jeong Eun Lee, Iowa State University

Iowa: Fostering Latino Youth Career and College Readiness

Grant Name:

Iowa State University Sustainable Community Project: Fostering Latino Youth Career and College Readiness

Grant Description:

The Fostering Latino Youth Career and College Readiness Program supports Latino youth in eighth grade (13–14 yrs; early adolescence) who are at risk for not graduating from high school. The program engages youth in high-context, high-contact activities to gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to pursue paths that will prepare them for careers and college. The Pathways for Our Future model will be implemented at two sites and builds upon the success of a previous Iowa CYFAR SCP and the research-based, evidence-informed ¡Salir Adelante! curriculum and the 4-H Careers Pathway Academy which is based on the successful national 4-H Build Your Future curriculum. During the 1st year of enrollment, Latino youth in eighth grade and their parents and caregivers engage in 52–65 hours of in-depth, sequenced education to explore paths to careers and college. During the 2nd and future years of enrollment, youth will begin long-term engagement via 4-H clubs and other 4-H youth development opportunities (35–50 hours annually). Youth enrolled in Year 1 will participate in 192–265 hours of Extension programs over the project period. Siblings and extended family members are invited to activities to foster support for target youth’s continuation in the project and to introduce families to other Extension programs (e.g., young children to 4-H Clover Kids; parents to Familias Fuertes).

Contact(s):

Kimberly Greder, Iowa State University

Kentucky: University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University SCP: Promoting Change Through Youth Engagement

Grant Name:

University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University SCP: Promoting Change Through Youth Engagement

Grant Description:

The University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University’s Sustainable Community Project, Promoting Change Through Youth Engagement, aims to empower at-risk youth aged 12–18 by providing them with critical life skills and supportive relationships to foster self-sufficiency and positive development. This initiative combines the expertise of Cooperative Extension professionals from both universities, leveraging the Kentucky Youth Engagement and Support Program Model, YMCA Safe Place Services Model, Positive Youth Development Framework, and Trauma-Informed Care. Targeting communities in Fayette, Pulaski, Bullitt, and Jefferson counties, the project addresses the pressing needs of high-risk youth, particularly those in foster care and living in poverty. With a focus on trauma-informed practices and positive youth development, the program enhances critical life skills, community resource access, and fosters a sense of belonging and efficacy among participants. Youth engage in weekly sessions over 10-week cohorts, supported by trained staff and mentors, to develop problem-solving, communication, workforce preparation, and financial literacy skills. The program emphasizes the importance of supportive adult–youth relationships and community partnerships to ensure a holistic approach to youth development. Utilizing evidence-based curricula such as Botvin Transitions and additional resources like Skills to Pay the Bills and Reality Store, the program ensures comprehensive and culturally relevant content. Technology integration, including the use of laptops, tablets, and communication apps, facilitates program delivery and engagement. Sustainability efforts focus on building strong community collaborations and securing additional funding to extend the program's impact beyond the grant period. The initiative is built on successful foundations laid by previous CYFAR grants and aims to institutionalize these effective practices across new and existing sites, ensuring long-term benefits for Kentucky’s youth.

Contact(s): 

Kerri Ashurst, University of Kentucky

Kentucky: Uplift: Empowering Today's Youth for Tomorrow's Future

Grant Name:

Uplift: Empowering Today's Youth for Tomorrow's Future

Grant Description:

The purpose of this grant is to provide a comprehensive life skills development program for high-risk youth and strengths-based programming for their families. Primary goals include increased youth awareness/understanding of critical life skills for self-sufficiency, increased parental/guardian awareness/understanding of critical parenting skills for self-efficacy, and increased community partnerships among youth and family organizations in target communities. The program model utilized is the YMCA Safe Place Program Model. The program vision employs a multidisciplinary positive youth development and trauma-informed approach that is grounded in research, views youth in the context of the family and community, and develops programming based on local needs.

Contact(s):

Kerri Ashurst, University of Kentucky

Kenneth Jones, University of Kentucky

Louisiana: Teens Leading Change

Grant Name:

CYFAR Teens Leading Change

Grant Description:

Teens Leading Change is a teen coalition of leaders in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes focused on creating policy, system, and environmental (PSE) changes in their communities. Teens will develop leadership and teaching skills that will be used to form and grow community partnerships. At least one major project will be completed by the coalitions per year. This project will be selected and led by the teens with the guidance of Extension and community staff. Examples of PSE changes include park and playground improvements, policies creating healthy options in schools, and working with a local convenience store to stock fresh fruits and vegetables. Coalition or working group meetings will be held weekly, and coaltions will engage with multiple community partners each year to ensure that sustainable and effective changes are made in the community. As a long-term result of this project, those two groups will create sustainable changes related to health and activity in their communities while documenting the procedures and lessons learned in programming. This model will be made public and replicated in Extension programs across the state of Louisiana and the region.

Contact(s):

Claire Zak, Louisiana State University

Maine: 4-H Community Central

Grant Name:

Maine 4-H Community Central: Engaging Teens in College Readiness and Workforce Development

Grant Description:

UMaine Extension staff will be physically placed in public housing sites to (a) provide quality out-of-school time programming and (b) link crucial ecological entities in the lives of teens (i.e., family, elders, school, after-school groups, faith community, etc.) in order to grow leadership opportunities, strengthen workforce preparation and college readiness skills, and build social capital.

Contact(s):

Kristy Ouellette, University of Maine

Maine: Maine 4-H Community Central: Supporting Youth Thriving Through Discovery and Relationships

Grant Name:

Maine 4-H Community Central: Supporting Youth Thriving Through Discovery and Relationships

Grant Description:

The Maine 4-H Community Central: Supporting Youth Thriving Through Discovery and Relationships program aims to foster personal growth, leadership, and social capital among at-risk middle school youth in Lewiston and Portland, Maine. Through strategic partnerships with local schools, community organizations, and faith-based groups, the program integrates quality out-of-school time programming, mentoring, and ecological system theory to enhance youth development. The program targets middle school students (Grades 6–8, ages 11–14) and 110 high school mentors (Grades 9–12, ages 14–19) over 5 years. Middle school youth will participate in weekly sessions focusing on self-discovery, peer relationships, and community engagement, aiming to build confidence, communication skills, and social awareness. High school mentors will develop workforce skills and leadership abilities, facilitating workshops and supporting younger peers. The program's holistic approach addresses the unique challenges faced by youth in these communities, including poverty, homelessness, and recent traumatic events, while providing consistent adult mentorship to build resilience and a sense of belonging. Using Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory, the program emphasizes the importance of a supportive environment in youth development. The initiative will expand over the years, starting with 8-week pilot Discovery Clubs and evolving into comprehensive, year-round programming. By integrating culturally relevant materials and dual-language support, Maine 4-H Community Central ensures accessibility for refugee and minority youth, enhancing their ability to thrive academically and socially. This collaborative effort between UMaine Extension staff, local educators, and community partners aims to create a generation of empowered, socially conscious leaders who will positively impact their communities.

Contact(s): 

Kristy Oueliette, University of Maine

Maryland: Addressing Youth Mental Health of Latinx Families by Strengthening Family-Skills and Engaging in Sports

Grant Name:

Addressing Youth Mental Health of Latinx Families by Strengthening Family-Skills and Engaging in Sports

Grant Description:

This project aims to improve the mental health among the youth of Latinx families by strengthening healthy parenting practices and positive youth development and engaging youth in organized sports. This project will engage underserved Latinx families in three interrelated programs: the Family-Skills program to strengthen healthy parenting practice; Your Thoughts Matter: Navigating Mental Health; and the Padres Preparados, Jóvenes Saludables program to strengthen positive youth development and engage youth in soccer practices. The program for adolescents between 10 and 14 years old, Your Thoughts Matter: Navigating Mental Health, is a 4-H national resource. The goal is to increase awareness of how many people are affected by mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The second program, Padres Preparados, Jóvenes Saludables, aims to strengthen prosocial competencies. This project will focus on increasing prosocial skills among youth (communication, conflict management, identity, etc.) and healthy energy balance related behaviors.

Contact(s):

Ghaffar Hurtado Choque, University of Maryland

Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin: Building Menominee Teen Resilience

Grant Name:

Building Menominee Teen Resilience

Grant Description:

This project will utilize Teen Mental Health First Aid, trauma-informed care, and Discovery Dating as evidence-based intervention delivery systems to support long-term prevention of substance misuse, historical trauma, and healthy relationships. Both service providers and teens will be provided with these tools so that they feel less helpless and that they have the tools necessary for preventing more of their classmates, friends, and family members from overdosing or committing suicide. Trainings will be held for high school students and youth-serving staff in two communities: Keshena and Neopit. Each site will have a youth advisory board. An annual youth summit will be conducted to increase awareness of teen mental health, drug addiction, historical trauma, and healthy relationships—an idea developed by local youth. Multiple programs are integrated into this project to encapsulate the resources needed to break the cycle of trauma and addiction.

Contact(s):

Brian Kowalkowski, College of Menominee Nation

Minnesota: FDLTCC Bimaaji'idiwin (Saving Each Other's Lives)

Grant Name:

FDLTCC Bimaaji'idiwin (Saving Each Other's Lives) Harvest Sustainable Community Project

Grant Description:

Focusing on “Leadership Through Harvest,” the Bimaaji'idiwin Sustainable Community Project borrows from the strength of multigenerational learning and community that is integral to Anishinaabe culture. Using the connecting thread of harvest, both in the sense of food sovereignty and traditional cultural events, project staff will work with community sites to ground youth in community and build skills that support youth resiliency. Programming will focus on the National CYFAR Teen Outcome. Programming will connect teens to community, culture, and skills that contribute to positive leadership. Community stakeholder input collected during the 2020 Environmental Institute Strategic Planning meeting emphasized serving youth in those critical teen years as a need in the Anishinaabe community. Previous youth programming has helped to pilot a model of outreach that integrates culture-based activities to motivate Native youth toward healthier lifestyles for the betterment of themselves, their families, and especially their community. The foundation of programming is cultural connection, youth engagement, cultural events, youth mentorship, and leadership all built around a holistic understanding of harvest. Using seasonal harvest of traditional foods as well as organic agricultural production, students will gain skills, knowledge, and connection through the understanding of food sovereignty. This project focuses on one of the most fundamental, and often overlooked, protective factors for communities experiencing disparate health stresses: the incorporation of culture-based traditional activities into outreach programs. Cultural interventions address wellness in a holistic sense, recognizing the balance between one's tradition, culture, language, and community.

Contact(s):

Courtney Kowalczak, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Minnesota: STEAM Connect Club

Grant Name:

Minnesota 4-H Youth Development CYFAR Project: STEAM Connect Club

Grant Description:

Somali American youth and families need programs that celebrate their strengths and build social inclusion while creating opportunities for parents and youth to enhance their educational pathways. Specifically, youth and parents need opportunities to address what community members have identified as “the cultural gap” between U.S. teens and their Somali-born parents. In response, the Minnesota 4-H CYFAR team designed a joint family and youth program model that has three key elements: (a) Ka Joog 4-H STEAM Connects Clubs that ignite youth interest in learning about science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, and create opportunities for youth to imagine and plan for their educational futures; (b) parent/guardian sessions through Partnering for School Success to gain resources that help them connect with their children and support their education; and (c) parent and youth shared programming activities to share learning with one another, cocreate educational plans, and have shared educational experiences.

Contact(s):

Jennifer Skuza, University of Minnesota

Joanna Tzenis, University of Minnesota

Minnesota: Ka Joog 4-H Leadership Clubs

Grant Name:

Minnesota and North Dakota Joint CYFAR Sustainable Community Project: Ka Joog 4-H Leadership Clubs

Grant Description:

The Ka Joog 4-H Leadership Program Model focuses on youth topics of interest (sparks), leadership development, and college and career readiness. The clubs are facilitated by two adults from the Somali community and meet weekly during the school year and provide structured opportunities to engage in immersive and showcase experiences in both secondary and postsecondary environments and ipotential career opportunities. Somali-American teens and families living in rural areas need programs that celebrate their strengths, build social inclusion, and foster structured opportunities for youth to concretely explore college and career options in various industries. In addition, the larger community, including adults with capital to help Somali teens attain postsecondary and career goals, needs more opportunities to recognize and value the numerous assets Somali youth possess. Too often, Somali youth are viewed through a deficit lens and seen as a liability to the community. This deficit view held by people in power excludes youth from opportunities. In response, the North Dakota & Minnesota 4-H CYFAR team designed a youth program model that uses a community collaborative approach that considers and addresses the multiple social environments that can help youth thrive in their education and careers.

Contact(s):

Joanna Tzenis​​​​​​​, University of Minnesota​​​​​​​

Missouri: 4-H Youth Futures Hopeful Pathways Project: The University of Missouri SCP

Grant Name:

4-H Youth Futures Hopeful Pathways Project: The University of Missouri SCP

Grant Description:

The 4-H Youth Futures Hopeful Pathways Project: The University of Missouri SCP aims to inspire and prepare middle and high school youth (ages 13–18) for postsecondary education and career opportunities. Developed in collaboration with the University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Cooperative Extension, the program targets at-risk and underrepresented adolescents, offering them the inspiration, information, and opportunities needed to achieve their goals. The program focuses on building self-awareness, exploring educational and career pathways, enhancing financial literacy, and developing essential life skills through a structured curriculum. Youth meet weekly after school, forming strong, supportive relationships with peers and mentors, which are crucial for their personal and academic development. The program’s short-term goals include helping youth identify and aspire to postsecondary goals, increasing positive relational connections, and improving self-efficacy. Long-term goals aim to boost the representation of diverse groups in higher education and career fields, improve societal and economic conditions, and increase enrollment and completion rates in higher education and technical certifications. Each site will serve approximately 25 participants, supported by trained staff and mentors who facilitate the program. The updated curriculum includes high-impact experiences like college field trips and integrates intentional self-regulation practices to help youth navigate their personal pathways. The program is delivered through a collaborative community approach, leveraging technology for communication and resource sharing. Sustainability is ensured through ongoing support from the Missouri 4-H Foundation, community partnerships, and a commitment to integrating the program into the broader Missouri 4-H initiatives. Selected community sites, including Independence, St. Louis, and Anderson, were chosen based on their needs and assets, focusing on areas with high poverty rates and significant underrepresented populations. The program’s comprehensive design and commitment to inclusivity and adaptability make it a vital initiative for fostering educational access and success among Missouri’s youth.

Contact(s): 

Kellie Seals, University of Missouri

Missouri: Expanding 4-H to Urban Latino/a Audiences

Grant Name:

Expanding 4-H to Urban Latino/a Audiences

Grant Description:

The Expanding 4-H to Urban Latino/a Audiences project will increase healthy behaviors and educational aspirations for school-age Latino/a youth (beginning between the ages of 10 and 13 years) and their families in two Kansas City, Missouri, communities: Three Trails Elementary and Clifford Nowlin Middle School. In both communities, the majority of students are eligible for free and/or reduced lunch, and 31% of students are Latino/a. The surrounding neighborhoods offer limited access to parks and recreation facilities and are food deserts. The project will engage school-age Latino/a youth and families in culturally relevant programming, including a 24-week after-school soccer program using the US Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success model. Latino/a youth and families will also be supported in establishing 4-H clubs, providing high-context and sustained 4-H experiences. The Juntos 4-H model will introduce after-school tutoring and expanded family activities as the youth reach Grades 8 through 12. The project will be scaled to additional sites in Kansas City, Missouri, and other urban locations. In Year 1, the project will reach 60 youth, with 3,240 program contact hours, and 300 family members. By Year 5, the project is projected to reach 540 youth, with 58,320 program contact hours, and 2,700 family members.

Contact(s):

Beth Edwards, University of Missouri

Maria Guadalupe Fabregas, University of Missouri

Montana: Social, Emotional, and Physical Wellness for Rural and Native American Youth

Grant Name:

Montana Sustainable Communities: Social, Emotional, and Physical Wellness for Rural and Native American Youth

Grant Description:

The Social, Emotional, and Physical Health and Wellness program model provides at-risk youth with tools to increase and enhance social and emotional learning. Youth learn coping skills, increase emotional intelligence, address and solve social problems, and build leadership and life skills. The model includes training for youth related to mental health using the Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) curriculum. It increases students’ knowledge about depression and anxiety, enhances coping skills and emotional resiliency, and reduces suicidal ideation and attempts. The program model was previously adapted for youth in Montana including Native Americans. YAM is taught to freshmen in a health enhancement class as part of the regular school curriculum. The CYFAR project will bring together Extension professionals, school administrators and educators, students, and community organizations and businesses through four pathways: (a) formal youth education by Extension professionals (YAM); (b) informal enrichment programs led by school educators (e.g., technology clubs); (c) informal, out-of-school-time programs led by Extension professionals to help guide peer and leadership groups as they develop activities related to social, emotional, and physical health and wellness; and (d) outreach and engagement to community organizations and businesses. The YAM training for youth occurs first, followed by approximately 15–20 weeks of 4-H after-school meetings during which the peer and leadership group develops an in-depth plan to reach out to their respective communities to engage organizations and businesses in a campaign to increase awareness of social, emotional, and physical health and wellness issues. The technology club will then meet during lunch or after school for approximately 15–20 weeks to develop technology in support of the community campaign (i.e., a phone app and QR code; an online magazine; and acrylic, laser-cut tokens).

Contact(s):

Mark Schure, Montana State University

Shana Henry, Stone Child College

Nebraska: University of Nebraska-Lincoln SCP: Engaging At-Risk Youth Through Near-Peer Mentoring Wearable Technologies

Grant Name: 

University of Nebraska-Lincoln SCP: Engaging At-Risk Youth Through Near-Peer Mentoring Wearable Technologies

Grant Description:

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Sustainable Community Project (SCP) Engaging At-Risk Youth Through Near-Peer Mentoring Wearable Technologies Curriculum (M-TECH Nebraska) aims to enhance STEM learning for school-age youth (K–8) through an innovative program model. M-TECH Nebraska focuses on providing hands-on STEM experiences to fourth and fifth grade students from two predominantly Hispanic Title I elementary schools in Grand Island, Nebraska. The program utilizes a near-peer mentoring model where high school students serve as mentors, helping younger students engage in STEM activities involving wearable technology. This approach not only aids the younger students but also equips high school mentors with valuable leadership and communication skills. The project will leverage the Nebraska 4-H Wearable Technology (WearTec) curriculum, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, to immerse students in experiential learning. WearTec activities involve creating electronic textiles or accessories that integrate engineering, computer programming, and basic circuitry, thereby fostering a strong foundation in STEM disciplines. The selected community sites, Howard Elementary and Dodge Elementary, both serve high-risk populations with significant numbers of Hispanic and immigrant students living in poverty. By engaging these students in after-school programs, M-TECH Nebraska aims to address the critical need for STEM exposure and education in these underserved communities. In addition, the project will enhance social capital and science identity among participants, aiming to inspire long-term interest in STEM careers. The project team, consisting of experienced educators and specialists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will provide training, support, and resources to ensure the successful implementation and sustainability of the program. Through partnerships with local schools, community organizations, and the Nebraska Extension, M-TECH Nebraska aims to create lasting impacts on the educational and career trajectories of participating youth, ultimately contributing to broader economic development and quality of life improvements in rural and minority communities.

Contact(s): 

Michelle Krehbiel, University of Nebraska

Nebraska: Youth Civic Engagement: Using Simulations and Design Thinking

Grant Name:

Youth Civic Engagement: Using Simulations and Design Thinking

Grant Description:

An engaging and innovative learning program including online simulations and design thinking will provide civics, entrepreneurship, and leadership education to at-risk youth in two of the most highly impoverished communities with large racial and ethnic minority populations in Nebraska (Douglas and Scotts Bluff Counties). This project incorporates two evidence-based curricula adapted for use in a 20-hour summer camp: iCivics, which uses online gaming simulations to promote citizenship and civic engagement, and Lean LaunchPad®, an experiential learning tool to improve problem-solving skills. Participants will be comprised of seventh- and eighth-grade youth in the selected sites. Program topics and the age range were selected based on the project team's prior research and experience in Extension programming, which pointed to lack of civic engagement and need for a sense of community as critical social issues affecting individuals and as barriers to community revitalization in high-poverty communities with large ethnic minority populations. The program objectives are to promote youths’ civic knowledge and skills, attitude, and behavioral engagement and to increase community capacity that leads to sustaining this program. A mixed-methods longitudinal panel design will be used to measure program outcomes at baseline and follow-up assessments. Focus group interviews will be conducted at the end of each program year. The team will develop a pilot curriculum and test feasibility in Year 1, refine the curriculum in Year 2, expand the program in Year 3, adapt the curriculum for the after-school model in Year 4, and integrate the program into 4-H Extension programming in Year 5.

Contact(s):

Evan Choi, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Nevada: Enriching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for Kids and Families

Grant Name:

University of Nevada, Reno Sustainable Community Project: Enriching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for Kids and Families

Grant Description:

Enriching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for Kids and Families is based on two award-winning University of Nevada, Reno Extension parent engagement program models (Family Storyteller and Let’s Discover STEM) that focus on school readiness and early school success, foundational academic knowledge, parenting skills, and homeschool connections in targeted audiences. A pilot program with elements of the model was tested between 2014–2015 and 2017–2018, and this CYFAR proposal expands these program models by (a) focusing specifically on SEL related school readiness skills and mental health issues of families, (b) working with parents and children together, and (c) specifically targeting families in low-income areas with large Hispanic populations.

Contact(s):

YaeBin Kim, University of Nevada, Reno

New Jersey: Preparing the Next Generation of Urban Food and Agriculture Changemakers

Grant Name:

Preparing the Next Generation of Urban Food and Agriculture Changemakers

Grant Description:

Preparing the Next Generation of Urban Food and Agriculture Changemakers is a 13-month leadership and skill building program to engage urban, at-risk teens in community-based food systems education and urban agriculture centered on social justice and food security. Working collaboratively with Rutgers Cooperative Extension faculty and staff and community partners, the project team will implement Changemakers in Jersey City and Camden, New Jersey. The proposed project will empower youth of diverse backgrounds to learn about sustainable local food systems through urban agriculture and by working with and in their communities. This program will be modeled on successful programs that focus on urban agriculture and will focus on social justice to examine food access, food security, and health disparities. Through culturally responsive teaching, teens will also gain valuable leadership skills as they plan and implement a food systems action plan and become changemakers in their communities.

Contact(s):

Sharon Kinsey, Rutgers State University

New York: 4-H LEGACY Project (Let’s Grow Agriculture and Community Through Youth) Joint CYFAR SCP

Grant Name:

4-H LEGACY Project (Let’s Grow Agriculture and Community Through Youth) Joint CYFAR SCP

Grant Description:

The 4-H LEGACY CYFAR program through Cornell University is an innovative, two-generational strategy aimed at improving the lives and well-being of young people and families with limited resources. It seeks to break the generational cycle of poverty by providing new opportunities for learning and thriving. Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) leaders will serve as peer leaders, sharing STEM-related projects with their high school peers and teaching middle school students. In the first 2 years of the 4-H LEGACY program, partnerships have been established with the Tree of Life Center and one of the three NYC Imagine Science sites. In the 3rd and 4th years, two additional Imagine Science sites or other community partners will be invited. Each partner will appoint a community agency leader to help maintain the group and work alongside CUCE-NYC staff and YLA teen leaders to enhance group cohesion. New York State 4-H will provide foundational training to community partner staff, including Strengthening Families and basic and intermediate positive youth development trainings. The program will also emphasize the 4-H Public Adventures Curriculum to guide community engagement efforts with a focus on building character, purpose, and youth voice authentically.

Contact(s): 

Jacqueline Davis-Manigaulte

North Carolina: Robots, Energy, and Agriscience

Grant Name:

Robots, Energy, and Agriscience: Advancing Equity and STEM Growth Mindset in Rural STEM Education

Grant Description:

The proposed project will bring together a multidisciplinary team of professionals from two land-grant universities, one Cooperative Extension System, and four local education agencies to serve middle school youth, their teachers, their nonformal educators, and their families by transferring knowledge and technology to increase science, technology, engineering, and math literacy and civic engagement through formal and informal implementation of 4-H, peer-reviewed, research-based curricula.

Contact(s):

Amy Chilcote, North Carolina State University

North Dakota: Building Community Capacity and Resilience Through 4-H in ND Tribal Nations

Grant Name:

Building Community Capacity and Resilience Through 4-H in ND Tribal Nation

Grant Description:

The program model for Building Community Capacity and Resilience Through 4-H in North Dakota Tribal Nations is a 4-H science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics development program for rural Native American North Dakota youth at four community sites. The Circle of Courage Model will be followed to provide youth with a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity through educational activities using the culturally relevant themes of past, present, and future.

Contact(s):

Diane Hahn, North Dakota State University

Heidi Ziegenmeyer, Cankdeska Cikana Community College

Ohio: Promoting and Enhancing Positive Youth Development in Rural Ohio Through Evidence-Based School Program Initiatives

Grant Name:

Promoting and Enhancing Positive Youth Development in Rural Ohio Through Evidence-Based School Program Initiatives

Grant Description:

This project implements a suite of evidence-based programs built around Mind Matters, a school-based, youth resiliency program delivered during the normal school day. In addition, after-school programming (e.g., Active Parenting for caregivers, a 4-H Special Interest Club for youth, and community messaging around resiliency) will enhance family and community support and encourage inclusion among the participating youth. Previous projects using this model have demonstrated that through targeted positive youth development programs, individual participants experience an increase in protective factors and resilience (Constantine et al. 1999). The project will focus on youth in Scioto County, Ohio, that have faced significant childhood trauma from living in poverty and losing caregivers and family members to unintentional drug overdoses. Enhancing healthy life skills at such a critical time in their development will increase their chances to live healthy and productive lives. Our aim is to provide youth with critical protective factors at the school and community level in order to bolster resilience.

Contact(s):

Michael Betz, The Ohio State University

Ohio/Virginia: Bridge2Health

Grant Name:

Bridge2Health: An Intergenerational Mentoring Program

Grant Description:

Bridge2Health applies a community-based participatory research method using intergenerational approaches to programming in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and Amherst County, Virginia. The target youth population includes teenagers, approximately half of whom are in foster and/or kinship (e.g., grandparent) care; older adult participants include community volunteers affiliated with a community partner. Annual cohorts of paired teen and older adult mentors engage in a train-the-trainer model by which participants build skills with age peers and then with intergenerational partners before engaging in community outreach. Curricula are Extension and 4-H approved, culturally appropriate, responsive to student interests, and in support of CYFAR principles such as the Teen Leadership 20 and Youth Engaged in Learning about Leadership curricula. The Bridge2Health curriculum is designed to help teens build skills described in the USDA Science Blueprint Theme 5: Ag Science Policy Leadership, Beacon for Science objective: "contribute to safer, healthier, vibrant, sustainable, and innovative communities." Teens build these skills and experience belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity by engaging in evidence-based curricula that incorporate intergenerational strategies. By engaging teens and older adults as partners in identifying needs and assets to which they can jointly respond through bidirectional mentoring, this project anticipates achievement of short-term goals that include formation of trusting, supportive relationships; positive social norms; and belonging. Long-term goals include teen skill building and resilience. The two communities, working with The Ohio State University Extension and Virginia Cooperative Extension, will have better coordinated, sustainable services reflecting community needs.

Contact(s):

Shannon Jarrott, Ohio State University

Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Oklahoma: United We Can: Positive Youth Development Program

Grant Name:

Oklahoma State University Sustainable Community Project United We Can: Positive Youth Development Program

Grant Description:

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension’s United We Can: Positive Youth Program is an evidence-based program with empirically confirmed results in academic achievement and workforce preparation. The three aims are improving parental involvement in school, enhancing youth self-efficacy and social emotional learning, and creating a sense of belonging in a school and among a group of positively focused peers. These aims are accomplished through five weekly parent educational workshops, thirty success coaching sessions between a caring adult and a youth, eight weekly summer activities that expose youth to career and educational opportunities, and the formation of a local project advisory committee to guide sustainability efforts and expose youth to community leaders. Youth in the UWC program improved academic outcomes (grades, absences, detentions, and suspensions) and showed statistically significant increases in parental involvement in children's schooling, youth and parent academic expectations, youth self-efficacy and STEM involvement, and family cohesion and decreases in negative peer affiliations and youth drug use. Parent attendance at parent–teacher conferences also increased to 98% across sites.

Contact(s):

Ronald Cox, Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma/West Virginia: United We Can: Youth Entrepreneurship Program

Grant Name:

Oklahoma State University and West Virginia University Sustainable Community Project (SCP): The United We Can: Youth Entrepreneurship Program

Grant Description:

The ¡Unidos Se Puede! (United We Can!) program is a family-based program that targets low-income middle school youth and their families. The United We Can! (UWC) program helps these youth do better in school, avoid risky behaviors such as drug use and teen pregnancy, and reduce the chronic stress in their lives that leads to school dropout and long-term physical and emotional problems. UWC has three major components: family engagement, youth personal agency, and positive peer affiliations. Families attend a series of meetings, during which UWC staff use fun activities and games to help parents become more involved in their children's schooling, learn general parenting skills, become more comfortable with the US education system, and learn how to advocate for their children's success. In addition to increased school engagement, UWC program sessions help parents (a) network with others in a way that reduces social isolation, (b) regain a sense of control over their and their children's futures, and (c) cultivate the hope necessary to successfully cope with stress and practice positive parenting. These sessions are followed up by 14 monthly booster sessions, during which UWC staff will connect parents and youth to community resources, introduce new themes, and practice the skills already learned. The Youth Personal Agency component empowers youth to take control of their own futures. Youth are assigned to a success coach who works with them to develop a personal success plan focused on educational goals and critical life skills. Coaches are young adults who are enrolled in college or have recently graduated. Coaches monitor students' academic progress using data provided by the school on absences, grades, and behavior problems. When challenges arise, coaches use the challenges to help youth develop life skills such as emotion regulation, goal setting, critical thinking, problem-solving, and other attributes of positive youth development (e.g., personal care, study habits, time management). Coaches also maintain regular contact with parents to help foster strong parent-adolescent relationships and to encourage and empower their involvement in their children's academic achievement. For the positive peer affiliations component, youth participate in regular activities (monthly during the school year and weekly during the summer) designed to provide a space where they can bond with each other and develop a sense of belonging with a group of like-minded peers. Activities focus on exposure to science-, technology-, engineering-, and mathematics-related careers as well as training in entrepreneurship, including an end-of-year competition judged by successful business owners from the community. A final summer outing takes youth to a major college campus. Here youth begin to envision themselves completing a 4-year degree by interacting with professors and students in specially designed workshops on diverse topics such as DNA sequencing, robotics, social science data collection, and videography.

Contact(s):

Nila Cobb, West Virginia University

Ron Cox, Oklahoma State University

Rhode Island: Project StRIde: Science and Technology Reinforced by Innovative Dietary Education With Rhode Island Youth

Grant Name:

Project StRIde: Science and Technology Reinforced by Innovative Dietary Education With Rhode Island Youth

Grant Description:

The University of Rhode Island Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk Sustainable Communities Project, Project StRIde: Science and Technology Reinforced by Innovative Dietary Education with Rhode Island Youth, is an ambitious 5-year initiative to deliver an out-of-school program to low-income, racially and ethnically diverse, urban Rhode Island youth (Grades 3–5; n=600: n=300 program, n=300 control) and their families to address two critical overarching disparities: the science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) academic achievement gap and dietary behaviors/food-related skills. To achieve this goal, the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension network and key community partners in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, will deliver and sustain an interdisciplinary, STEAM-focused food literacy outreach program consisting of (a) a 6-week summer camp program emphasizing experiential and technology-enhanced learning and civic engagement, (b) a four-part family night program, and (c) an Annual Youth Food Summit.

Contact(s):

Sarah Amin, University of Rhode Island

Katie Balestracci, University of Rhode Island

Rhode Island: University of Rhode Island 4-H Roots of Resilience: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Social Responsibility SCP

Grant Name:

University of Rhode Island 4-H Roots of Resilience: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Social Responsibility SCP

Grant Description:

The URI 4-H Roots of Resilience: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Social Responsibility SCP is an interdisciplinary initiative targeting at-risk high school students (Grades 10–12) in Providence County, Rhode Island. Led by CYFAR staff and community leaders from organizations like Young Voices and the Providence Public Library, this program focuses on four existential life questions to foster self-discovery and social responsibility. Through a 13-week, 3-credit course complemented by field trips and hands-on activities, students enhance their understanding of identity, values, and purpose while increasing their knowledge of social responsibility and media literacy. Pre- and postsurveys measure program effectiveness with short-term goals of improved self-awareness, critical thinking, and media literacy and long-term goals of reduced absenteeism, increased postsecondary enrollment, and enhanced life skills. The program aims to create a sustainable model through community partnerships and continuous support from principal investigators and staff. Participants present final projects at a symposium, showcasing their growth and potential impact on their communities.

Contact(s): 

Tolani Olagundoye, University of Rhode Island

South Dakota/North Dakota: Strengthening the Heartland: Promoting Life Readiness in Rural Youth

Grant Name:

Strengthening the Heartland: Promoting Life Readiness in Rural Youth

Grant Description:

Given the aging workforce in rural North and South Dakota, mentally healthy youth who possess life skills are critical to filling the expected increase in vacancies in the future workforce. Social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, such as emotion regulation and self-awareness, reduce anxiety, allowing youth to combat stress and focus on life readiness skills needed in the workplace. To promote life readiness, the current project will implement an SEL program followed by a life readiness curriculum in six communities in North and South Dakota. School counselors will facilitate Second Step in middle schools through weekly SEL lessons that include media-based content and hands-on activities. Ninth graders will then attend a career camp at a land-grant university in their state to introduce careers in food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences during workshops facilitated by Extension professionals. Promotion of food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences and the skills needed in those careers will continue through a high school life readiness curriculum with lessons created by Extension professionals. Youth will be evaluated at the beginning and end of each year for changes in SEL skills and workforce preparation. The promotion of SEL and life readiness is expected to develop healthy, productive youth capable of contributing to an aging workplace.

Contact(s):

Amber Letcher, South Dakota State University

South Dakota/West Virginia: SDSU/WVU Sustainable Community Project: LaunchSkills – Expanding Life Readiness for Rural Youth

Grant Name:

SDSU/WVU Sustainable Community Project: LaunchSkills – Expanding Life Readiness for Rural Youth

Grant Description:

LaunchSkills – Expanding Life Readiness for Rural Youth targets school-age youth (K–8) in South Dakota and West Virginia to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors essential for fulfilling, contributing lives. This initiative addresses workforce shortages in these states, particularly in rural areas experiencing significant labor deficits. The program emphasizes early career and life readiness starting in middle school, a crucial period for identity formation and career exploration. Research shows that career development activities at this age increase self-efficacy and persistence in specific college majors and careers. Nonetheless, school counselors often struggle to balance career guidance with rising mental health demands, creating a need for supplemental career readiness programs. The LaunchSkills – Expanding Life Readiness for Rural Youth model includes biweekly interactive lessons in social-emotional skills, 21st Century workplace skills, and career exploration. Using the LaunchSkills curriculum, students will engage in 100 lessons covering academic success, financial literacy, career exploration, and holistic wellness. In addition, the Skills in a Box curriculum will introduce essential workplace skills like collaboration and digital literacy through experiential activities, while Careers in a Box will expose students to lesser known, in-demand careers through hands-on activities. The program will be delivered by school counselors, teachers, and Extension professionals in various settings, ensuring accessibility and sustainability. Pre- and posttests will measure short-term improvements in life skills, career readiness, and self-efficacy with long-term goals including integrating the curricula into regular programming, increasing life skills, reducing absenteeism, and boosting postsecondary enrollment. The program also provides professional development for facilitators, enhancing their ability to support youth effectively. This comprehensive approach aims to build a competent future workforce, fostering rural prosperity in South Dakota, West Virginia, and beyond.

Contact(s): 

Amber Lechter, South Dakota State University

Tennessee: University of Tennessee Extension – Sustainable Community Project

Grant Name:

University of Tennessee Extension – Sustainable Community Project

Grant Description:

The mission of the University of Tennessee's Sustainable Communities Project is to enhance educational curricula, develop linkages to support families, and provide technical assistance and training for after-school staff. The project focuses on middle-school-age youth and seeks to improve their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary for fulfilling, contributing lives. The program targets high-risk, school-age youth and their families who are experiencing trauma-inducing environments, academically challenged, potential dropouts, more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, and lacking prosocial and emotional learning skills and strong positive role models. The sites the project serves have a large number of children who live in poverty. The primary content focuses on three areas: (a) social and emotional learning; (b) students’ academics through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) agriculture, STEM nutrition, STEM robotics, and STEM engineering programming; and (c) intensive family engagement programming. Nonacademic content, such as leadership, decision-making, positive relationships, and increased self-work, is also stressed. The philosophy of this project believes youth must first address their social and emotional needs before academic gains can occur.

Contact(s):

Matthew Devereaux, University of Tennessee

Texas: Prairie View A&M University Sustainable Community Project

Grant Name:

Prairie View A&M University Sustainable Community Project

Grant Description:

This project is a dropout prevention and college preparation program for Latinx youth and their parents in Texas. The program’s goal is to help youth enter higher education and then the workforce. Juntos builds resilience among Latinx teens and their families through parent involvement, life skills development, one-on-one coaching, and connections with caring adults. This is an evidence-based program with a curriculum for parents and teens fashioned around four wraparound components: (a) family engagement, (b) monthly individualized success coaching with each student by a local Juntos site coordinator, (c) after-school Juntos 4-H club meetings and activities, and (d) a week-long summer college experience. The focus will be on increasing the number of minority students pursuing enrollment in postsecondary education; being aware of college majors; and taking interest in science, technology, engineering, math, and agriculture careers. These goals will be met by improving student attendance and grades in school, increasing the sense of belonging among Latinx students and families in their schools and communities, increasing family engagement, increasing teens’ use of technology, increasing the percentage of Latinx students graduating and attending higher education, and increasing the Juntos Program’s long-term sustainability.

Contact(s):

Rukeia Draw-Hood, Prairie View A&M University

Texas: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Sustainable Community Project – Science Wings Through 4-H (Science Wings)

Grant Name:

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Sustainable Community Project – Science Wings Through 4-H (Science Wings)

Grant Description:

Science Wings through 4-H, led by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, aims to equip at-risk, school-age youth (K–8) in Bexar County (San Antonio) and Harris County (Houston) with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary for leading positive, productive lives. Addressing unique challenges faced by military families and underrepresented communities, the program employs an urban community garden model to foster social interaction, civic engagement, and environmental stewardship. Over a 10-week period, youth and their families will participate in after-school sessions focused on sustainable gardening practices, improving physical and mental health through access to fresh produce and developing leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. The curriculum includes science-based gardening best practices, and produce will be consumed, marketed, or donated to address food insecurity. With a goal of long-term sustainability, the program is supported by a robust team including Extension agents, teachers, and youth center directors, all trained in science-based gardening and educational policies. Science Wings integrates activities into the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards, ensuring educational relevance. The program's success will be measured through short-term outcomes such as improved health and nutrition awareness and long-term goals like continued garden programs and enhanced community leadership. By creating permanent 4-H Youth Development Clubs and fostering leadership among all stakeholders, Science Wings aims to promote innovative, sustainable science education practices that can secure future funding and support rural prosperity. This comprehensive approach involves iterative consultation with community partners, leveraging existing relationships and parental support to ensure impactful, culturally relevant programming that prepares youth for future challenges.

Contact(s): 

David Wright, Texas A&M

Vermont: Youth PROSPER

Grant Name:

Vermont Youth PROSPER: A Sustainable Community Project

Grant Description:

The University of Vermont Sustainable Community Project addresses the opioid epidemic by strengthening families and reducing youth risk behaviors, including substance use. Project staff will accomplish this goal through the implementation of PROSPER, an evidence-based community engagement model which stands for PROmoting School Community University Partnerships to Encourage Resilience. As its name implies, PROSPER is a collaboration between the Cooperative Extension System at the land-grant university, the public school system, and local communities. University of Vermont will work with Newport School and St. Johnsbury School, two Vermont Schools Districts, and local community teams to implement evidence-based family and school programs designed to reduce youth problem behaviors (e.g., substance use, violence, and other conduct problems) by strengthening families and building youth resiliency skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, and workforce readiness skills. These programs will target Grades 6–7. According to the 2017 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Vermont Department of Health, middle school youth are engaged in a range of risky behaviors, including drinking, vaping, and suicidal ideation. Peer disapproval of marijuana use has dropped. In addition, "the prevalence of drug use among rural-dwelling youth now equals or has surpassed that of urban youth. Several recent studies have observed an increased likelihood of use of alcohol, smokeless tobacco, and cigarettes among rural youth compared to urban youth. There is also evidence that rural youth are more likely to use drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and inhalants than are urban youth, although the literature is somewhat inconsistent" (Rhew et al., 2011). According to a Vermont Department of Health (2019) data brief on middle school resilience, "Overall, youth in grades 6-8 who have supportive family, school and community relationships are less likely to: use substances, experience bullying, have serious thoughts about or make a plan on killing themselves, or skip school because they felt unsafe on their way to or at school than students who do not report having these relationships." The middle school years are the target of the PROSPER model for this very reason and because what University of Vermont Extension and collaborators experience in current programs reflects this as well. The more engaged and connected youth are in quality positive youth development programs, the more likely they are to thrive (4-H Thriving Model of PYD, n.d.). An evaluation conducted by Iowa State University found that among PROSPER communities, youth showed lower rates of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and methamphetamine use; schools reported fewer conduct problems; and parents showed an increase in positive feelings toward their children. Working together, University of Vermont and the two community sites will join the fight against opioid and drug misuse by bringing evidence-based programs to bear on the challenges facing Vermont youth while expanding opportunities for youth to engage in meaningful activities.

Contact(s):

Sarah Kleinman, University of Vermont

Washington: Adapting Strengthening Families (SFP 10–14) for Legalized Marijuana Context

Grant Name:

Adapting Strengthening Families (SFP 10–14) for Legalized Marijuana Context

Grant Description:

Strengthening Families for Preventing Marijuana Use is a comprehensive approach to family marijuana misuse prevention promoting (a) accurate parent and youth perceptions of marijuana use prevalence, consequences, and acceptability, which are necessary when making healthy decisions and not using marijuana; (b) positive youth development outcomes; and (c) family support and communication skills including on the topic of legalized retail marijuana. The program has two integrated components with a goal to improve the quality and quantity of comprehensive community-based programs, supported by Washington State University Extension, for youth and families at risk for marijuana misuse. First, a universally available, evidence-based, family-focused intervention, Strengthening Families Program 10–14 (SFP), emphasizes positive youth development (i.e., 6 C’s), family cohesion, parenting skills, effective communication, and appropriate youth monitoring. SFP, which includes an evidence-based curriculum adapted for Latinx families, Familias Fuertes, is recognized as an exemplary program by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education; a model program by the Center for Substance Use Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association; and a program of distinction by National 4-H Headquarters & Cooperative State Research, Education, & Extension Service. Cost-benefit analyses of SFP find that for every dollar invested in the program, tax payers and society reap $3.89 worth of benefits in reduced costs associated with future substance use and related outcomes. Washington State SFP 10–14 and the adapted Familias Fuertes evaluations spanning pre- and post-retail-marijuana legalization find significant improvements in intervention-targeted outcomes associated with youth substance use, including caregivers’ rules about substance use, family harmony, caregiver supervision and enforcement of family rules, and open communication.

Contact(s):

Elizabeth Weybright, Washington State University

Wisconsin: The Growing Connections Program

Grant Name:

Wisconsin Sustainable Communities: The Growing Connections Program

Grant Description:

The Growing Connections Program will expose young people in Milwaukee to multiple pathways beyond high school while at the same time developing the integrated identity, competencies, and agency that will support their pursuit of postsecondary goals. During the summer months, youth participants engage in an intensive developmental experience at the program’s hub, the Connections Garden at Kohl Farm. They will then apply their skills and leverage their new relationships in two communities, each centered in grassroots organizations. Through their engagement in and commitment to the program, young people will not only learn how to work in a team to grow food and develop a cultural and arts education space in a physically and emotionally safe place, but they will also interact with positive mentors from a variety of career paths and thereby increase their capacity to develop positive relationships and deepen their understanding of postsecondary pathways and opportunities. Through weekly goal-setting and reflection activities, youth will identify their strengths, assets, and growth areas they seek to develop that will better position them to pursue postsecondary goals. Youth will develop the competencies (communication, self-regulation, belief in self, etc.) that foster positive development through opportunities for leadership roles, working as part of a team, and seasonal employment. Youth participants will remain engaged in the program during the school year as well, focused in their two home neighborhoods with a goal of deepening their understanding of their role as an actor in their community. By applying what they learn in the garden educational space to their individual, home, and community life and support network, project staff will also add a youth leadership and skill-to-capacity curriculum to the UW-Extension method of community vitality and placemaking.

Contact(s):

Matthew Calvert, University of Wisconsin

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Sustainable Community Project: Cultivando Conexiones – Developing Leadership, Technology Skills and Community Placemaking Capacity with Youth

Grant Name:

Wisconsin Sustainable Community Project: Cultivando Conexiones – Developing Leadership, Technology Skills and Community Placemaking Capacity with Youth

Grant Description:

Cultivando Conexiones aims to develop leadership, technology skills, and community placemaking capacity among high school aged youth in Milwaukee. This initiative builds upon successful collaborations with nonprofit organizations, university partners, and educators to empower underrepresented communities and address the persistent racial achievement gap in STEM education. The program engages youth in STEM learning through Digital Observation Tools Skills (DOTS), garden education, and community placemaking with a focus on experiential learning and career exploration. By integrating technology and hands-on activities, youth will enhance their scientific inquiry skills, develop leadership abilities, and participate in community design charrettes, culminating in youth-led projects that improve their neighborhoods. The program also emphasizes dual-language support and culturally relevant materials to ensure accessibility for Latinx students and their families. Throughout the year, youth will engage in biweekly sessions during the summer and weekly meetings during the school year, working alongside adult mentors to cocreate program content and experiences. The initiative will serve at least 40 youth annually, supported by a dedicated team of Extension staff and partner organization personnel. Community events like the Science Strikes Back fair will showcase youth projects, fostering a sense of belonging and achievement in STEM fields. By leveraging existing partnerships and investing in community capacity, Cultivando Conexiones aims to create sustainable change and broaden participation in STEM, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and skilled future workforce in Milwaukee.

Contact(s): 

Justin Hougham, University of Wisconsin

Wisconsin/North Carolina: Nia: Pathways and Purpose for the Future

Grant Name:

Nia: Pathways and Purpose for the Future

Grant Description:

This project aims to eliminate the gap in post-high-school pathways exploration for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color youth. The program design prioritizes mentored learning that guides youth through developmentally appropriate decision-making processes and goal-oriented activity and access to critical information to assist them in reaching their goals. This program intended for youth ages 13–18 will build social awareness as youth interact with individuals who represent pathways they are exploring and learn about their experiences. Youth will visit campuses and work settings and participate in project-based and experiential learning opportunities related to specific career pathways, including agriculture, science, technology, engineering, math, and social sciences. Youth will be involved in co-constructing program activities around the topic areas of identity development, social-emotional learning, and pathways exploration. This project will aim to help youth develop the ability to critically evaluate their personal interests, skills, goals, resources, opportunities, and challenges in the context of different post-high-school pathways.

Contact(s):

Joe Maldonado, University of Wisconsin

Shannon Wiley, North Carolina A&T University