Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service will receive $1 million in federal funding for 4-H outreach to at-risk youth and strengthening 4-H clubs in New Mexico.
4-H, which stands for head, heart, hands and health, is the world's largest youth organization, with 6.4 million members. It helps young people gain the life skills they need to become productive citizens, using a hands-on, "learn by doing" approach. New Mexico 4-H programs began in 1912.
U.S. Justice Department funding approved Feb. 1 for New Mexico includes about $750,000 for at-risk youth programs and nearly $300,000 for 4-H youth development program support.
The money will be used to hire six new 4-H agents for three years, said Jesse Holloway, 4-H department head. The program will target areas with at-risk youth populations and understaffed county Extension offices, he said.
"The new 4-H agents will spend three-quarters of their time in outreach to youth at-risk, to establish new clubs with those groups," he said. "The other quarter of the agents' time will be spent in working with the 4-H programs already in place."
Six counties will be selected for new staff based on proposals submitted to district Extension directors this month. New agents are expected to begin work in the fall, Holloway said. The 4-H funding stems from a very supportive congressional delegation, he said.
"This fits very well with one of the major goals we're emphasizing, which is strengthening our 4-H club programs," Holloway said. "Adding six new agents to work with new audiences and in areas where we're not represented should certainly strengthen our overall 4-H program."
Currently, 50,200 youth in New Mexico participate in 4-H. About 7,600 are enrolled in traditional 4-H clubs, and the rest take part in school enrichment or special-interest programs, Holloway said.
"This funding will provide additional 4-H opportunities for youth from various communities and settings to experience hands-on learning," said Linda Schultz, state 4-H specialist. "Any time we can help youth succeed and gain skills in the process, we all win as a society."
The new funding complements two other major efforts underway in the state: 4-H Share/Care and Rio Arriba County's Clover Club project.
4-H Share/Care offers substance abuse prevention education and positive activities for young people in after-school and summer programs. A total of 2,773 children participated in the federal and state-supported program in 12 counties from 1999 to 2000. Participants come from inner city Albuquerque and rural settings, including two pueblos.
Rio Arriba County's program, financed by a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department, offers a combination of 4-H activities and drug prevention education in elementary and middle schools in the county. Through 4-H Clover Clubs, young people in the community find ways to fill up their leisure time with fun, educational, after-school activities instead of drugs.
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