I continuously hear that 4-H and University of Missouri Extension is the "best kept secret" in town.
When a great new restaurant comes into town, people are typically curious and check it out. If they have a positive experience with the friendly wait staff, wonderful food, luxurious ambiance and reasonable prices, they will undoubtedly patronize this restaurant again.
I think of University of Missouri Extension and 4-H within this metaphor. Let's use the Kid Safety Day 2011 in Jefferson City as an example. The inception of the idea came from a specific experience of kidnapping in the area four years back. Pair this with the clear need for safety because of nationwide events from school shootings to public safety issues such as the recent Arizona situation, and a clear need has developed.
In this case, the University of Missouri Extension and 4-H were responsive to the need to "open" a new environment for positive youth development. Once we identified the need, we mobilized community support to help idealize this need. Our "friendly wait staff" included the local sheriff, a judge, the community emergency response team, fellow extension staff, a 4-H alum teaching self-defense, the Optimist Club and the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The local media and schools wrapped their arms around this event and helped to "patronize" our new environment. Thus, our story was effectively told, and the true flavor of the event was felt community-wide.
We had 20 wonderful young participants who enjoyed the "food" both literally and metaphorically. Our evaluations indicated that youths were more aware of keeping safe online, during an emergency at home and understood the effects of drinking on driving and engaging in activities. Further, youths left with "their bellies full" of knowledge and tools to use immediately. They received guide sheets on personal publishing online, tips on "stranger danger," strategies for effectively communicating with 911 personnel, and items to pack in their emergency kits at home.
I am sure you are anxious to call the University of Missouri Extension today to examine our "menu" of choices from support in agriculture, business and community development, human and family development, nutrition support and youth development.
For more information, please visit our website, extension.missouri.edu. You can click on the drop down menu on the right to identify your local county office.
Jenny Flatt is a 4-H youth specialist. You can contact her at 634-2824 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.