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Showing posts from February, 2022

Rural stress: Why you(th)?

By Aly Kloeckner Bend, don’t break. You may have heard this phrase lately in reference to rural stress. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released funds to work directly with rural communities on farm stress and rural mental health throughout the United States. Tackling the issue from all sides is important. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) “Bend, Don’t Break” initiative is partnering with University of Minnesota Extension and a host of other organizations to advance work in communities affected by rural stress and promote mental health and wellness at all ages.  So what is rural stress and why are rural communities affected?  Rural communities and families are disproportionately affected by a range of stressors including a volatile agricultural economy, population loss, healthcare and daycare shortages, and isolation. These can increase risks from obesity, depression and opioid addiction to suicide and inter

Mentoring matches make a difference

By Nancy Hegland Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have many types of mentors who supported my growth and development as a youth development professional. One was assigned when I started a new position, however most have just naturally evolved as we connected as colleagues. Recently, we started a new mentor program for new 4-H Extension educators, who were matched with colleagues who have been in their roles for at least five years and are willing to commit to the relationship for at least a year. As my colleagues and I developed the program, we asked ourselves how it could be successful, as well as how much structure and guidance we should provide. While there have been informal mentors, supervisors and colleagues to provide advice to new staff, we believed it was essential to provide a more formal structured program that outlined expectations and roles for both the mentor and mentees. A recent article, Exploring Early Career Extension Agent’s Perceptions of Their Mentors

Reaching new audiences at home

By Jeremy Freeman One trend that has been clearly witnessed throughout the pandemic is a rise in the number of families choosing to school at home. Recent data from the US Census Bureau shows an increase from 3.3% of US school-age children being taught at home in 2017, to 5.4% in the spring of 2020, to 11.1% by the fall of 2020. As described in the report, the uncertainty of the current environment is causing families to seek alternative solutions for their children's educational and socio-emotional needs. This transition presents youth serving organizations an incredibly rich opportunity to engage families in meaningful learning. Let’s begin by considering a few aspects that support engaging new audiences respectfully.  Cultural humility  Before we begin to connect with home-educated families we need to release ourselves from many of our presuppositions. Stereotyping homeschooling families interferes with our ability to meet present needs. Research has shown that there are a vari