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A call for solidarity in the time of COVID-19 racism

By Kathryn Sharpe

Youth are experiencing tremendous anxiety, fear, and loss as a result of COVID-19 and all the resulting changes. As they try to make sense of the new shape of their lives, some of them are discovering the satisfaction of giving back—through helping neighbors in need, sewing face masks or creating care packages for health care workers.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has also brought an ugly spike in anti-Asian bias incidents and hate crimes, as social media and even political leaders have associated the virus with China and Asia in general.

Associating immigrants with disease is a nasty, recurring myth in US culture. Because of it, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth, their families, program volunteers and our colleagues may be afraid to go to the grocery store not only because of illness, but because of the threat of verbal and even physical attacks.


As youth workers, we cultivate deep relationships with young people and their families. We seek to help yout…
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How to foster social and emotional learning while we're social distancing

By Kate Walker

In this era of staying at home, distance learning and a new type of latchkey kids whose parents are essential workers, we can center young people’s social-emotional well-being. Schools are closed, routines disrupted and special events canceled. Issues of equity and access are worsened as families struggle with internet and technology divides, food and housing insecurities and the pressures of isolation.

Our Ways of Being model is a tool for teaching about social and emotional learning (SEL). It’s the foundation for the freely available Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources, which has activities you can adapt for no-tech or virtual youth programming. I've just created a set of videos that walk you through each section of the toolkit.

Ways of Relating Now more than ever we need to connect with and have empathy for others. Meeting virtually requires specific social, communication and active listening skills. Adults ca…

Empathy has never been more important

By Karyn Santl

For two months, I have been putting together a webinar for 4-H volunteers about showing empathy and giving feedback. As I put the finishing touches on it, I'm working from home - ordered to do so, like most Americans living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am surrounded by family members who are dealing with cancellations, uncertainty and isolation. I am also supporting my colleagues as they adjust to their new work and home situations. The topic of my webinar has become more important than ever.

Dr. Brene` Brown has a great video that explains and shows the difference between empathy and sympathy. In Brown’s work, she references the nursing scholar Theresa Wiseman’s four attributes of empathy:
To be able to see the world as others see it. This requires putting your own "stuff" aside to see the situation through someone else’s eyes.To be nonjudgmental. Judgement of another person's situation discounts the experience and is an attempt to protect ourselve…

Abrupt change is a big opportunity to improve youth programs

By Nancy Hegland

Two weeks ago, I was planning for this blog post to be about the busy-ness of our lives. I had gathered multiple resources to base my thoughts on at the time. I knew that my professional and personal life would be extra busy, too, as I wrapped up some major work projects and attended my own teenagers' events. Then our lives changed and we were all forced to adjust.

Along with adjusting our personal lives, we are adapting the way that we provide positive youth development experiences. This past week, my colleagues have brought considerable creativity, innovation, and exploration to bear on this problem. Their efforts will enable us to deliver distance learning far into the future and beyond the current, immediate need.

As we are seeing, change can be an opportunity as well as a challenge. As I thought about change, it made me think about ways that we are adjusting our work, as families and communities seek programs that benefit youth today. John Kotter has written s…

Traditions in youth programming—a blessing or a curse?

By Jessica Pierson Russo

Working for an institution (4-H) that has been around for more than 100 years, I come across many traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. Traditions can be a blessing! But they can also be a curse. I could fund all of Extension if I had a nickel for every time I've heard, “but we’ve always done it this way!”

Done right, traditions serve a greater purpose. Done wrong, the traditions become the master, taking over better judgement and practices. Youth programming itself can become a kind of tradition—for good or bad.

The question is, are our programs and approaches serving youth and families? Or are we putting youth and families in the position of serving some long-held tradition that may no longer serve their interests?

Participating in traditions can have a profoundly positive effect on a person’s sense of belonging. They can bring a sense of predictability to a space, can help people feel a connection to the past. Studies also …

How to choose career training that will do the most for you

By Nicole Pokorney

Wouldn’t it be great if we told job interviewees that professional development would be required? Wouldn't it be great if organizations invested in funding exactly the right support for each employee at every stage of their career?

At the beginning of each year, many of us make a plan of work that includes professional development. Sometimes we choose a conference or a training for no better reason than its familiarity. Many times the knowledge and materials we gain just get filed away or even worse -- thrown away. That is not a sign of good professional development.

True professional development meets the needs of the employee in the context of their career stage and organization in which they work. For the employee, it takes time to reflect on your own passions and skills, your job position and the organization’s mission.

Rennekamp and Nall explained the problem. “Participation in professional development opportunities is seldom done to meet a specific need art…

Make your youth program a pathway to higher education

By Joanna Tzenis

Youth who are in 4-H are more likely to pursue higher education than those who are not.  But what is it about the program that makes that so?

4-H takes a positive youth development (PYD) approach to placing youth on pathways to higher education. Through hands-on learning, 4-H'ers discover their passions and begin to explore them. Through leadership development, they become active agents in reaching their educational goals and acting on their passions in a way that advances society.

Each 4-H activity includes four essential elements that all young people need to achieve their aspirations for higher education.

Essential elements for achieving aspirations in higher education 1. Youth need opportunities to connect their interests and educational aspirations to concrete experiences. What this could look like in a 4-H experience:
Exploring a 4-H project area and sharing their learning with an adult.Visiting a college campus to do a chemistry lab with a current student, c…