NDSU 4-H center awarded youth mentoring grant
The North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Center for 4-H Youth Development has been awarded a $164,000 grant from the National 4-H Council for the 4-H National Youth Mentoring Program.
This is the fourth grant the center has received to implement the 4-H Mentoring: Youth and Families With Promise (4-H YFP) program on the Standing Rock reservation. The reservation encompasses Sioux County in south-central North Dakota and extends into South Dakota.
Youth on the reservation face many challenges. For example, 51 percent of youth birth to age 17 live in poverty. Research shows that living in poverty places children at higher risk for social and emotional stress, physical and mental health issues, higher rates of risky behavior and poor academic performance. Sioux County has the state’s highest average dropout rate, at 12.2 percent.
The 4-H YFP program is a prevention-based effort designed to strengthen the academic and social skills of at-risk youth. Native American elders serve as mentors and provide educational programming for youth age 5 to 18 with support from an Extension agent and the NDSU Extension Service.
The program helps youth develop a sense of belonging through a positive relationship with a caring adult, and gives them an opportunity to master skills they need to make career and life choices, have experiences that build their confidence and ability to think independently, and learn how to give back to others.
As of the fall of 2014, 44 mentor volunteers have worked with 187 tribal youth. Programs the youth have participated in include educational video making, business development, entrepreneurship, 3-D printing, beadwork, leather craft, outdoor skills, service learning and literacy activities. Older youth started Sioux Image, a screen printing and embroidery business.
Schools where mentored youth attend report a 20 percent increase in attendance, and the number of youth passing their classes has more than doubled. School officials credit the 4-H mentoring program for these increases in participation and attendance. The program also has helped address school truancy and dropout issues.
Rachelle Vettern, NDSU Extension Service leadership/volunteer development specialist and associate professor in the College of Human Development and Education, is providing leadership for the project. Sue Isbell, Extension agent in Sioux County, and several project assistants, provide local support.