Greater Houston team wins Superior Service Award for diversity
COLLEGE STATION — A team of Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents from Harris and other nearby counties has received a 2011 Superior Service Award in the category of diversity for their multi-county 4-H Health Rocks! Greater Houston program.
The 4-H Health Rocks! Greater Houston team represents diversity in the communities served, AgriLife Extension agents and programs involved, the population of youth reached, and the methods used to expand educational outreach on a critical health and safety issue affecting Texas youth and families, according to the award nomination.
Members of this AgriLife Extension team are: Sheryl Nolen, agent for uban youth development in Harris County; Alexis Cordova, agent for family and consumer sciences in Liberty County; Flora Williams, agent for family and consumer sciences in Grimes County; Marie Kenney, agent for 4-H and youth developmment in Orange County; and Kristy Titzman, agent for 4-H and youth development in Walker County.
“From counties on the fringe of the urban Houston area to counties hours away, a common denominator is the need to be vigilant with our efforts to combat the health and safety issues threatening youth,” said Dr. Elaine Fries, AgriLife Extension South Region program director for family and consumer sciences. “Each day in Texas, youth as young as 8 years of age from all economic backgrounds, race and ethnicity are exposed to the risks associated with substance abuse.”
The team was established as a result of a National 4-H Council $60,000 grant awarded to Harris County to fund educational outreach in the Greater Houston area, according to the award nomination. The goals of the team were established to build caring youth and adult partnerships with cooperative learning experiences and engage them in the process of developing community strategies to prevent the risks associated with substance use and abuse.
“The program takes a diverse and comprehensive focus on health issues of legal and illegal substance use, such as smoking, smokeless tobacco, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse,” said Fries. “It also addresses other health issues, such as nutrition, healthy lifestyles, stress management and goal-setting for academic achievement.”
Participants also learn about the underlying issues of stress, peer pressure, social and media influences and how to improve decision-making, communication, self-expression, goal-setting and other “protective” life skills, she added
The original Health Rocks! grant was initiated in Harris County in 2008. Through local and team efforts, it has expanded the outreach of AgriLife Extension’s 4-H youth programs and reached 5,531 youth, along with and preparing 84 teens and 293 adults as partners to provide leadership for the Health Rocks! Greater Houston program.
Fries said the Health Rocks! team members devised innovative approaches to attract and reach diverse and/or multicultural audiences, partnering with agencies and schools that had not previously identified the Texas 4-H program as a partner for drug-prevention efforts. The members took the program to the neighborhoods, churches, schools, community centers, and city and county agencies to reach youth from all walks of life.
In conjunction with Health Rocks! Greater Houston team efforts:
– Liberty County established a new Liberty High School 4-H SWAT Health Rocks! Club to sustain leadership for school health initiatives.
– Orange County hosted a Region V teacher training and Bridge City Independent School District adopted Health Rocks! training in which high school seniors taught younger students.
– Grimes County established a two-day summer camp on alcohol, tobacco and substance-use prevention to economically disadvantaged, minority youth in high-risk neighborhoods and schools.
– Walker County established new curriculum enrichment programs, and the Huntsville High School nurse trained high school teens to provide leadership for Red Ribbon Week.
In Harris County, team efforts included:
– A 4-H Health Rocks! Teen-Teacher Team for summer programs in which teen volunteers were trained to teach younger youth in 21st Century after-school programs.
– Training the county’s Precinct 2 Youth Services staff to participate in and deliver after-school programs.
– Training the county’s Region IV school nurses and physical education/fitness teachers to partner with YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs and City of Houston Health and Human Services to provide health outreach in high-risk neighborhoods.
“Each 4-H Health Rocks! teaching plan with activities took on unique attributes of the audience and was adapted to the social, physical and cultural characteristics of the group,” Fries said. “The program curriculum was delivered in both Spanish and English in formats ranging from a two-day summer camp to school enrichment programs to special-interest programs in 4-H project clubs.”
In the award nomination, the Health Rocks! team was cited for its creativity in engaging youth in creating their own message expressed in song and rap, making posters, putting on a puppet show or participating in other productive activities. The overall program also was cited for providing a “catalyst for building new collaborations” with 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the Harris County Department of Education, Houston Health and Human Services, Harris County Youth Village, the Greater Houston YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Klentzman Communities in Schools and Precinct 2 Youth Services.
“Through team efforts, thousands of Greater Houston area youth participated in Health Rocks! learning about the health risks of tobacco, alcohol and substance use and learning how to improve their ability to deal with and get out of difficult situations,” Fries said. “Through training, after-school programming, a health expo, summer camps, community service and a variety of other outreach, the team has been able to reach a diverse youth audience and help establish new community strategies for engaging youth in preventing the use of tobacco, alcohol and other harmful substances.”