Extension News

Youth Programs Enriched by Blending Cultures

young girl and woman painting


This article is from the Extension Connection newsletter, Spring 2006.

Not all 4-H after-school programs are offered in the school lunchroom — this is evident as Iowa State University Extension reaches out to Hispanic youth. Program delivery and location are anything but routine. The programs, however, still bring caring adults and children eager to learn together in ways that are building community and life skills.

Page County Extension youth coordinator Debbie Swanson has introduced Hispanic youth and their parents to ISU Extension and 4-H by offering after-school programming at the Shenandoah Hispanic Center. Swanson’s delivery of monthly after-school activities led to her involvement in youth programs at the local Hispanic health fair and a farm safety experience for the children.


“4-H is Iowa’s way of doing things,” said Ernie Liljedahl, a former Page County Extension Council member and Hispanic Center volunteer. “The children want to learn and really enjoy new experiences, like visiting the farm and seeing the animals and learning about farm safety.” Swanson’s efforts are being rewarded as more Hispanic youth begin to participate in summer camps and other after-school programs.


Two groups of children, one in Williamsburg and one near Millersburg, also are eager for 4-H experiences. They are the children of Monsanto’s migrant work force — living in migrant camps, attending summer school programs and yearning for ways to fill late summer afternoon hours while their parents are still in the fields.


“Providing after-school programming for these children was a natural fit for Extension,” said Matt Brenneman, an ISU Extension council member in Iowa County and a Monsanto employee. “Extension has the programs to offer and the migrant children have the need for activities. These programs involve many volunteers, which makes the children feel important and know that the community and Extension care about them.”


What began in 2004 as a day camp at each location became one week of after-school programs at Williamsburg in 2005. Those camps were funded by ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development in Iowa County and grants from the Iowa 4-H Foundation. Extension’s successes have encouraged Monsanto to fund the 2006 summer after-school programs at both locations.


“The migrant workers are a vital labor pool for our Iowa business,” Brenneman said. “Monsanto supports this program as a gesture of goodwill to these reliable, quality families that return year after year.”


Ann Torbert, an ISU Extension 4-H youth specialist, is project leader for the migrant camp programming. She brought more volunteers onboard in 2005 to improve the ratio of adult/older youth to younger children. Oscar Rosales, from the Cedar Rapids New Iowans Center, was a 2005 volunteer at the camp and a valuable resource for the program planners, helping them identify bilingual books for the young children.


“The parents are very grateful for these activities for their children,” Rosales said. “The teens learned how to be involved with the younger children, properly prepare snacks and do fun activities. They can use what they learned at the 4-H camp in their family, regardless of where they are living.”


To learn about 4-H summer camps and other after-school programs, contact any ISU Extension county office




Contacts :

Laura Sternweis, Extension Communication Services, (515) 294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu