4-H Military Partnerships Wins Excellence in Engagement Award
For more than 16 years, Kansas State University has led all other universities for the 4-H Military Partnership. This feat is made possible through the work of Project Director Marlene VerBrugge, research assistant professor in the School of Family Studies and Human Services. As a result of her efforts, the Center for Engagement and Community Development (CECD) has awarded VerBrugge with the Excellence in Engagement Award.
The 4-H Military Partnership is representative of a national partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Land Grant University Cooperative Extension System with U.S. Air Force Child and Youth Programs, U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services, U.S. Navy Child and Youth Programs and National Guard Child and Youth Programs.
Having been involved in 4-H herself, VerBrugge understood the impact this program could have on the lives of military youth, where change is constant. This engaged partnership allows participants to develop the skills necessary to adapt to these changes and lead productive lives.
To support the 4-H Military Partnership, VerBrugge brought together a group of Extension professionals in each of the 47 states where the program takes place. “These people have come together in an engaged community over the years, which wouldn’t have happened without this entire project,” said VerBrugge. “I think working with these Extension 4-H Military Liaisons and building that community of people that have a common goal of helping these families has been a highlight for me.”
One innovative result of this community was 4-H 101-The Basics of Starting 4-H Clubs, which has been widely used, even outside of the military project. This also led to the manual 4-H 201-Resources for Fostering, Enhancing, and Sustaining 4-H Clubs, as well as materials on everything from nutrition, service learning and fitness.
Programs in each state can vary based on the needs of the youth. In Nebraska, programs such as STEM Dissection Days and Animals Inside and Out gave youth a new look into the field of animal science. Florida has begun implementing financial knowledge and awareness programs. Guam’s program develops responsible citizens through a community gardening program. The effects are far reaching. In 2016 alone, over 50,000 military youth participated in 4-H.
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed. “Marlene is the catalyst that drives the military partnerships and all the subsequent work completed in its name,” wrote Debra A. Willey, Chief of USAF Child and Youth Programs. “Her excellence extends beyond the Manhattan community and the state, and indeed has far reaching impact worldwide.”
For VerBrugge, knowing she has made a difference in the lives of military youth is its own reward. “Helping these military families as they have dealt with a lot of stressors over the years has been the most rewarding part,” said VerBrugge.