In our fourth Friday Field Notes blog post we are highlighting how State Family Programs has partnered with their local cooperative extension at the University of Minnesota to create some diverse youth programming. As you read this post, consider how your efforts to build community capacity to enhance the resilience and well-being of military families via job and career assistance might benefit from a collaboration with cooperative extension in your community.
We first connected with the University of Minnesota Extension when a grant was funded to help support Military Kids through Operation Military Kids. Operation Military Kids was established in 2005 in effort to support children of National Guard and Reserve soldiers who are called to active duty. Operation Military Kids provides a support network to youth and their families by connecting them helpful people and organizations in their hometowns.
Our OMK partnership has consisted of developing our MN Military Teen Panel. The panel was started in 2010 to support military teens who have a parent currently serving in the National Guard or Reserves. This is a group of about 14 teens who plan the Teen Summit each year. At our Teen Summit we have utilized 4-H Youth Development Educator, Brian McNeil to teach small group and large group workshops. We have also partnered with them during Month of the Military Child to award Art Contest participants with prizes and promote Month of the Military Child t-shirts. The partnerships also included support military children with a parent deployed. At Yellow Ribbon events, Operation Military Kids provided a Regional Activity Coordinator to implement 6th-12th grade curriculum, provide Hero Packs (for kids with a parent getting ready to deploy) and comfort pillows (with a parent currently deployed) to 3-18 years old. OMK supported a variety of events for Military Youth including Boots On Camp, SPEAK Out, and Family Camps.
Since OMK funding has ended on a national level our partnership with Extension has continued. We have utilized Extension for our workshops at the Teen Summit. This year we are utilizing a Health and Nutrition Educator to teach a workshop on Healthy Living. In the past we have utilized Family Development Educator, Sara Croymans, for a workshop on Finances, Cassandra Silveira for a workshop on Nutrition. We are continuing to handout Hero Packs and Comfort Pillows at Yellow Ribbon Events. In addition to the Hero Packs and Comfort Pillows we received a slew of OMK materials that we hand out at our Tween Overnights and Teen Leadership Forum.
We haven’t had the chance to connect MN Military with 4-H Youth. However, recently at our Teen Leadership Forum we had 4-H come to implement their Engineering Clinic. Along with a 4-H County Program Coordinator there was 4 4-H Youth who lead each group of teens throughout the clinic.
We have found many benefits to partnering with a great organization, Extension. There is a vast variety of personnel, and resources to pull from. The knowledge base of Extension personnel far exceeds what any other organization has to support youth, in general. The opportunities are endless with partnering with an organization consisting of a wide variety of subject matters. What helps is the fact they are local. We continue to attend the 4-H Military Partnership Meeting each Spring, where we gather great ideas on how to further develop our partnership with 4-H and extensions as a whole.
- Laura Groenweg, is the Lead Child and Youth Program Coordinator at Cognitive Professional Service Corporation. She has been working with State Family Programs for 6 years, and started the Minnesota Military Teen Panel, or MMTP, 5 years ago. In that time she has become a military spouse and has had 2 boys, Levi, 2 ½ years old and Simon, 9 months old. Recently, she experienced a 6 month separation while her husband was attending Basic Officer Leadership course in Ft. Sill, OK.
- Moriah Legvold is with the MN National Guard as a Child and Youth Program Coordinator and has been working with State Family Programs for 3 years. Previously, Moriah was an elementary teacher at Iowa Connections Academy. She has gained experience and a passion for military youth as a Camp Adventure Counselor on an active duty base in Hawaii during Summer 2010. She continued her passion volunteering for the Iowa National Guard for 1 ½ years around the time she graduated from college in 2011 with a degree in Elementary Education at William Penn University.