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4-H works with after-school programs to reach children
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – More Mississippi youth will have access to after-school programs because of an effort by Mississippi State University’s 4-H program to train providers who can reach these children.
The National 4-H Council and the MetLife Foundation awarded Mississippi’s 4-H program $13,500 to improve after-school programs. The grant allowed MSU’s 4-H specialists to train 550 providers at a statewide workshop this June. The 4-H After-school Provider Training Program is available to recruit youth for existing programs and help them develop leadership and life skills.
“Mississippi has more than 775,000 youth under the age of 18,” said state 4-H program leader Susan Holder. “Many of them would benefit from additional opportunities that after-school programs offer to enhance education and guide personal growth.”
Participants who attended were eligible to earn continuing education credits and staff development hours. Many of them were teachers, child-care workers, church youth leaders and parents who are after-school providers. Others enrolled because they want to establish after-school programs in their communities, said program coordinator Betty Rawlings, state 4-H youth development specialist.
“We operate on the assumption that if the bus stops there, it’s after-school care,” Rawlings said. “Anyone who is interested in having a proactive relationship with children and working with them when school ends for the day can become a skilled provider and have a tremendous impact on youth.”
The training included presentations on development stages that affect children’s abilities to function and learn, motivational steps to empower them, and hands-on activities to advance learning and social interaction. Many 4-H youth agents and adult volunteer leaders use these techniques to help club members develop their potential to become positive role models.
“We have incorporated some of the activities into our curriculum,” said Linda Watts, director of the Children’s Village in Anguilla. “Many of these activities have a mental component that stimulates thinking and a physical component that involves exercise and movement. The children have thoroughly enjoyed these experiences.”
Although some Mississippi communities have after-school programs, many of them are located in the state’s urban areas with supportive resources and infrastructure. Communities in the rural parts of the state sometimes lag behind in developing after-school activities because they do not have these resources.
A DVD of the workshop and a printed copy of the curriculum are available at no charge through the local county offices of the MSU Extension Service. Providers also can contact Rawlings at the state 4-H program headquarters at (662) 325-3350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Adults who operate day-care centers or after-school sites and parents who keep children in their home after school can obtain the DVD and curriculum to learn the techniques of delivering life skills and fun educational experiences to Mississippi youth,” Rawlings said. “I encourage individuals with an interest in after-school programs to pursue this opportunity.”