Sarah Tarjeson, 4-H Youth Development Educator and Linda Robson, 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator
In a collaboration project with the Sheboygan County Health and Human Service Department and the Sheboygan County 4-H Youth Development Program, the creation of the club Plug: Hooking You Up For Life was formatted. This club works with older youth selected by staff from the Juvenile Court and Child and Family Services Division who need community service hours. The 4-H Youth Development Program provides quarterly experiences involving both a community service piece and a related educational component. Linda Robson, 4-H Program Educator, wrote for a grant and received $1,370 to run this program for one year by the Sheboygan County 4-H Leaders Association Endowment Fund. The Juvenile Court and Child and Family Services Division provide a staff member to help with the youth. Robson also has worked to have a community member come to these experiences to help teach the youth about a specific topic. When each experience is over, the youth receive a certificate of completion and a $10 Walmart gift card.
During the month of February, a call went out to the Sheboygan County 4-H Community Clubs asking for new or slightly used donations that can be used to create activity bags for youth being placed in the foster care system. The 4-H community came together and donated hundreds of items such as matchbox cars, playdough, crayons, coloring books, and fidget items. On Saturday, March 14th the first experience was held as four youth showed up to help compile the Foster Care Activity Bags and also learn about interviewing and applications. They were great with helping from the start by getting everything out and set up. They worked together well as they decided on how to appropriately divide up the toys and activities by youth ages. Ron Jakubisin, Washington/Fond du Lac County Youth Development Educator, came to talk with the participants about the best methods to answer interview questions (especially when the answer may not be the most positive) and how to appropriately complete job applications.
In the end, with help from the Sheboygan County 4-H community clubs, 4-H Leaders Association Endowment Grant and the 4 youth participants, we were able to pull together 147 Activity Bags for the youth in the Sheboygan County Foster Care program. Each bag has about 3-4 different items in them. The bags are separated and assembled for youth by infant through high school. Additionally, there is a box of coloring books, crayons, markers, and paper. A second box was compiled with things like sidewalk chalk and jump ropes that the Child and Family Services Division can use however they like.
Talking with the staff member that drove the youth to the meeting location, he was surprised as to how much and how quickly the youth opened up and started talking with each other and to the adults present. The participants came not knowing each other and yet still worked well together and as the morning progressed, they not only shared but listened to each other. Overall, they were polite and ready to help with the service project and took an interest in learning about work applications and interviewing skills.
The second experience is scheduled for late May and will be held at the 4-H Camp Riversite grounds. The youth will be removing invasive species and have a nature educational component. The third experience will be held mid-August at the Oostburg Dog park that was made by the Oostburg Rangers 4-H Club. The youth will be building structures for the dogs to play and then learning about basic pet care. The fourth experience is scheduled for November with a focus on the military. They will be assembling Military Care Packages (supplies donated by the 4-H community) and talking with a panel of veterans.