Polk County 4-H selected national winner for  Excellence in After-School Programming

Altoona, IA (August 31, 2023) – Polk County 4-H was selected as the national winner for “Excellence in After School Programming” as awarded by the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals (NAE4-HYDP). The award recognized the team’s effort to expand its reach to urban youth in Des Moines by expanding and providing 4-H opportunities to an underserved audience. The Polk County 4-H team comprised of county youth coordinators, Megan Freel and Marci Vinsand, and 4-H and family life educator, Virginia Atwell, will receive the award during the Association’s national conference awards banquet to be held October 12, 2023 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

“This award is the compilation of strategic and creative thinking to best serve youth in our county,” Paul Gibbins, regional director for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach  in Polk County said. “The Polk County 4-H team reviewed county-level data, elevated community partners, and most importantly incorporated their passion, to develop a unique after school program that has impacted hundreds of Des Moines youth.”  

The award winning afterschool program was developed with Des Moines Public School groups in mind including partner organzations like Metro Kids, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and Boys and Girls Clubs. Youth experienced 4-H through research-based lessons and curricula that focused on STEM, healthy living, communication and the arts, and leadership and civic engagement. Additionally, a lesson related to mental health was incorporated in each session to help support youth in an ever-changing environment.  

“The lessons that were selected for this after school program truly expanded the perceptions of 4-H, not only among youth, but the community coordinators and partners we worked with,” said Freel. “We worked to create an inclusive 4-H experience that was tailored to the community’s needs while featuring engaging, hands-on, research-based activities. We hope that other 4-H programs around the country can use our program as a template for reaching diverse and underserved youth in their communities.” 

Over the 2022-2023 school year, Polk County 4-H staff served a total of 416 youth elementary-aged in Des Moines through the after school program.

4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy
In addition to supporting elementary aged Des Moines youth, the Polk County 4-H team has worked with the Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families to implement the 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy. The Academy is a yearlong, leadership program for urban youth in grades 8-11. This experience provides participants rigorous leadership development and training through monthly workshops, networking opportunities, and completion of a group capstone service project. Applications for the upcoming 2023-2024 cohort open up mid-September.

For more information about after school programming or the 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy please visit the Polk County 4-H website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/4h or call (515) 957-5760.

About Polk County 4-H
Polk County 4-H is part of America’s largest youth development organization where collectively we empower nearly six million young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime. At Polk County 4-H we offer youth research-based experiences that include a mentor, a hands-on project, and meaningful leadership opportunities. Our programs encourage youth to build leadership, citizenship, communication, and life skills while giving them a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

In 2022, Polk County 4-H served 1,500 youth through:
•    4-H and Clover Kids Clubs
•    Afterschool programs
•    Summer camps
•    Leadership conferences and retreats

For more information on other 4-H programs or opportunities, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/4h and to learn more about Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Polk County visit www.extension.iastate.edu/polk or call the ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County office at (515) 957-5760.