The Extension Center for Youth Development Children, Youth and Families At Risk (CYFAR) team recently successfully completed a five-year sustainable communities project. The team established eight youth cohorts that were integrated into local communities, infused with technology to leverage learning, and were sustained through community partnerships and family involvement. The target audience was middle school aged youth living in low income households and their parents or guardians.
This five-year project took place in three locations -- Willmar, Winona, and St. Paul -- reaching a total of 323 youth and 185 parents and guardians. Three long-term goals steered our efforts:
- Youth will set long-term personal education goals in the context of higher education and careers.
- Youth will exhibit mastery in a topic area of their choice.
- Parents/guardians will be engaged with their children on setting and meeting educational goals.
The CYFAR team was comprised of Youth Development staff and community partners from across the state. The team's hard work, talent and commitment to the project goals were instrumental to the project's success.
Ann Walter and Carolyn Dingfelder led the development of three cohorts at the Winona Area Learning Center, Winona Middle School and Kids First/Winona Housing Development. The youth focused on scientific inquiry and leadership skills. The program at Winona Middle School continues to be carried out by a promise fellow and the Kids First program is sustained through a partnership with Winona State University.
Trish Sheehan and Krista Lautenschlager partnered with Willmar Community Education and Recreation and Willmar Middle School to develop three cohorts in Willmar. The program encouraged participants to use scientific processes and higher level thinking. Krista continues to coordinate these programs as part of her plan of work.
Jessica Russo, Erica Gates and Joyce Strand partnered with American Indian Magnet School (AIMS) and affordable housing unit, Emma's Place (both in St. Paul). The group at AIMS explored nature in the context of Ojibwe and Lakota cultures and raised public awareness of the Big Urban Woods. Youth at Emma's place focused on family development, science and performing arts. Programming at AIMS continues with the support of 21st Century Funding. The Youth Coordinator at Emma's Place is continuing programming, staying connecting to 4-H through trainings and event attendance.
Finally, the state team was led by Principal Investigator, Jennifer Skuza, CYFAR educator, Joanna Tzenis and CAREI evaluator Tim Sheldon.