Creating Opportunity in the Midst of Uncertainty

By _Amaya_Collins_ February 11, 2021

In February 2020, 4‑H commemorated Black History Month by featuring the stories of 4‑H alumni and Cooperative Extension* leaders at 1890 land grant universities**. It was an honor to tell their stories and highlight the great work of their institutions. But so much has changed in the last year. Priorities have shifted, programs have realigned, and resources were re-evaluated. I caught up with some of them to learn about how these historically Black colleges and universities have continued their work in supporting kids and communities.

Dr. Carolyn Williams, Extension Director at the Prairie View A&M University, celebrates 4‑H and Extension agents, noting, “I am so proud of how they transitioned into virtual educators while learning to use technology in the process.”

Dr. Maurice Smith embarked on a professional transition, leaving his role as Assistant Professor and 4‑H Youth Development Extension Specialist at Virginia State University to become a National Program Leader at the USDA-NIFA.

Here’s how Teki Hunt, Director of 4‑H Youth Development Programs at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (UAPB), is working with community groups to deliver 4‑H resources and bring awareness to racial equity.

Since March 2020, we’ve primarily shifted to virtual platforms. I started a UAPB 4‑H Facebook page so I could continue doing live Healthy Living Sessions, as well as share 4‑H at Home activities and ideas from other 4‑H programs. We did a grab-and-go Healthy Snack bag from 4‑H and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which included instructions for a recipe contest we ran. Some of our afterschool groups are following a blended model—some in-person meetings with 10 kids or less, others online via Zoom.

In June 2020, our community held a Pine Bluff Solidarity Rally. My son—who has participated in 4‑H since about 3rd grade—was one of the speakers. Since then, we recently distributed a survey regarding our community and police relations as well as feelings of safety here in Pine Bluff. I developed the Spanish translation. This is completely voluntary and not connected to the university. University-related—in partnership with the University of Arkansas—we are working on the development of a Coming Together for Racial Understanding training.

*The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small-business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes.

**The Morrill Act of 1890 requires each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color. Among the seventy colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

 This interview is a part of a series of blogs supporting 4‑H’s Community Impact program emphasizing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion – an effort sponsored by Nationwide®

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