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Bishop Receives Western Regional 4-H Volunteer Management Award

LAS CRUCES -- Brenda Bishop, of Quay County, agrees with the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.

Bishop, home economist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service, received the Western Regional 4-H Volunteer Management Award for her role as project administrator of the Quay County Youth Partnership. The award was presented March 16 during the Western Region 4-H Leaders Forum in Idaho.

Bishop was a member of several committees addressing the needs of her community. Focusing their interests, she helped write a grant to establish the Youth Partnership. In 1991, the partnership was founded through a special grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for youth at risk.

"As society changes and there is a breakdown of the extended family system, there also is a deficit in role modeling between young people and adults," Bishop said. "The partnership hoped to reduce the deficit by actively involving the community in raising the children."

The partnership has had many successes in the county including an after-school program for first- through sixth-grade children; an evening recreation program for seventh- through twelfth-graders; and an alternative high school for teen mothers with daycare provided, located at Tucumcari High School.

The after-school program was designed by volunteer parents and community leaders. "During the afternoon, when many children are often unsupervised, the program provides recreation, snacks, help with homework, craft and creative projects, and guest speakers," Bishop said. Seventy-two children are enrolled for the 1995-96 school year. Parents of youth enrolled noticed positive changes in 85 percent of the children including fewer discipline problems and improved grades in school.

"At this time, there is only one licensed daycare facility in the county, and they can only accommodate 12 children," Bishop said. "However, there are several home daycare providers."

These providers require regular training to receive state funding. The Quay County Extension office conducts continuing education courses for approximately 200 daycare providers. "We've taught over 50 hours of courses during the past two years," Bishop said.

The National Guard Armory in Tucumcari houses the evening recreation center. The facility is open daily and hundreds of youth take advantage of the program.

Parents benefit from the partnership, as well. A task force of volunteers coordinates parenting seminars and distributes helpful newsletters. This group also provides child care training for the employees of the after-school program.

During the first year, various agencies in the area attended a community symposium to help plan programs for the Youth Partnership. Two groups have taken over most of the community planning: the Maternal and Child Health Council and the DWI Task Force.

Other agencies involved in the partnership include New Mexico State University, Tucumcari Public Schools, Eastern New Mexico University, Tucumcari Area Vocational School, Tucumcari, Quay County, New Mexico National Guard and Eastern Plains Families in Action.

Most of the major players involved in founding the partnership have moved on, except Bishop. She still serves as the program coordinator, writing grant reports and managing volunteer agencies' involvement. "My job's been easier the last three years as outside agencies have taken over parts of the program," Bishop said.