According to a recent Tufts study, 4-H members are two times more likely than their peers to attend college or technical school. This is due in large part to the life skills developed as these youth work through their 4-H projects. This year, more than 300 county youth completed a 4-H project in topics as diverse as creative arts, natural sciences, and livestock production.
Through a partnership with the Harrison County Department of Job and Family Services (JFS), we provided training in employment skills for their clients—youth enrolled in the Summer Employment Program, and chronically un/underemployed persons enrolled in the JFS Workforce Education Program. During two-hour educational events, we provided information on topics such as writing a cover letter, completing a job application, developing a resume, interviewing, communication, and problem-solving. The goal is for participants to gain skills and strategies that can help them become gainfully employed and self-sufficient. Most of the 80 participants reported learning new information and planning to make changes because of participating in an employment skills educational event. One participant said, “I plan to use Ohio Means Jobs [website].” Another adult reported, “[I will] network more.” One youth participant added, “I plan to make career goals.”
The School Superintendents Association (AASA) has pledged to redefine readiness in the American public school system by focusing on three areas: college, career, and life. In support of this mission, we started a pilot after-school program at Harrison Hills CSD called LifeReady. This comprehensive program for sophomores, juniors, and seniors provides a “rounding out” of the formal education system. Among other topics, the course has featured an off-site trip to learn about automotive care, job shadowing experiences, and budgeting for young adulthood. Initial feedback from the first group of students has been positive and we look forward to growing the program in future years.
Through partnerships with Harrison County Adult Probation and HARCATUS Head Start, we provided life skills and parenting education for their clients. The educational goal is to help participants acquire the information they need to develop and maintain positive relationships in their families and other social relations. To accomplish that goal, lesson topics included the following: guidance and discipline, helping children acquire literacy skills, safe homes, communicating with adults and children, the importance of play in learning, as well as budgeting and healthy lifestyles. Among the evaluations of the 40 participants, one adult reported, “[I will] ask kids or give them choices on what they want to do.” Another shared that he needed to, “give my children choices, try giving them options.”
Numerous studies indicate the importance of reaching young children with positive activities and role models. In the Harrison County 4-H program, community club advisers and older youth guide the leadership development experience. To ensure strong leadership, 50 advisers from 18 community clubs participated in adviser training workshops which promoted the 4-H mission of education, safety, health and fun. Thanks to the efforts of these volunteers, the county 4-H program has grown by 42 percent in the past eight years.
Decades of inadequate funding for public education has diminished student access to experiential learning in local schools. By providing cost-effective services, OSU Extension staff have filled this critical void with our school enrichment opportunities. STEM after-school, Fishy Science, Go Plants, and Rockets Away programs were taught to more than 235 elementary school participants. These programs help public school teachers meet academic content standards through engaging, hands-on lessons.
Maintaining a healthy diet and physically active lifestyle is a challenge for many people. In fact, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual county health rankings regularly place Harrison County in the bottom 10 for Ohio. During several 90-minute educational events, we offered information on choosing healthy foods, portion control, and the importance of physical activity and exercise to participants across the life span. These programs encouraged local residents to make healthy choices for higher quality lives. Among the 150+ participants, the majority reported learning at least one "take home" strategy they could try. One participant reported, “I learned how to eat healthier and make good choices.” Another added, “I plan to exercise more.”
The 4-H junior camp experience provides a valuable opportunity for teen leadership development and positive relationship-building in a safe learning environment. This year, 25 young volunteers participated as cabin leaders and 74 youth attended as campers. As a result, 100 percent of counselors improved their awareness of child protection strategies, while also strengthening essential life skills such as problem-solving, interviewing, and teamwork.
Today’s consumers place a high value on knowing (a) who raised their food and (b) if it was raised with care. This has generated a tremendous interest in farmers’ markets, direct market sales, and community-supported agriculture shares. Locally, the Harrison County Junior Fair Livestock Sale netted more than $340,000 in sales of county-raised food. Due to the quality of our young producers and increasing consumer demand, the impact of this sale has more than doubled in the past five years.
When farmers use pesticides improperly, they place their personal health and the health of Ohio’s waterways at risk. Ohio’s recent trouble with harmful algal blooms has further magnified the problem. To help limit the risk to both farmers and our water sources, Extension offers continuing education programs. This year, 10 participants completed the Pesticide Applicator’s Recertification Training and 46 farmers and agency representatives participated in Tri-County Agronomy Day. Participants learned how to effectively identify and manage pests, how to protect the environment when using pesticides, and how to minimize chemical use. Producers also learned about soil sampling and proper fertilizer application to reduce nutrient run-off into Ohio’s rivers and lakes.
As the nation’s food system moves toward a consumer-driven approach, assuring the quality care of livestock grows in importance. The 4-H youth development program places a high value on care, as evidenced by required participation in the livestock quality assurance program. This year, more than 180 local youth completed the program, which highlighted proper manure composting procedures, water and feed quality, and safe animal handling techniques. Due to the efforts of this program and other youth clinics, food-processing penalties were reduced by 67 percent this year.
According to a recent Tufts study, 4-H members are 5x more likely than their peers to perform community service. This year, local 4-H memberrs completed projects for military members stationed abroad, senior citizens in convalescent care, and more. These efforts help make Harrison County a more vibrant place to live.
The Master Gardener Volunteer program of Jefferson and Harrison counties provides educational opportunities in the areas of home horticulture and community gardening. More than 700 volunteer hours have been contributed to the community in 2016 by 14 Jefferson/Harrison Master Gardener Volunteers. Local volunteers have taught free gardening education sessions at several schools, a senior center, community gardens, farmers' markets, and libraries.