This article is from the Summer 2007 edition of the Extension Connection newsletter.
When 25 kids of Latino and African American heritage from inner city New York wanted to experience rural culture, they chose Iowa. Through connections in Union County, Iowa State University Extension became their host, helping them learn about and experience Iowa life firsthand.
The group from Fresh Youth Initiatives, an after school program, was exploring rural culture during its Trip USA. Sharon Wasteney, ISU Extension education director for Union County, said the youth had completed a community service project for the homeless and were rewarded for their efforts with a trip to experience life somewhere else. Their previous trips had brought them to an Amish community and Detroit, but they wanted to see life on a farm.
Throughout four days in February, the kids visited a cattle farm where they fed the livestock, were treated to a hearty Iowa breakfast and learned about rodeos with Iowa farmers in Union County. They traveled to neighboring counties and learned about ice fishing, different kinds of wildlife and tracking animals. They also met Iowa 4-H’ers and visited the ISU campus.
“One of the older kids who was a chaperone said the experience gave him added incentive to continue his college schooling,” Wasteney said. “He was trying to take a few classes while holding a job and caring for a sick parent.”
After the trip some of the youth said they wanted to pursue a college education — something they hadn’t thought of before.
“Some of the kids wanted to find ways to come back to Iowa and go to school here or somewhere in the Midwest,” Wasteney said. “It had such an impact on the kids to see a life that was totally different from their own.”