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Securing Community Support in an Underserved Area

SECURING COMMUNITY SUPPORT IN AN UNDERSERVED AREA
J. Kelly, UF/IFAS Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL
Situation: According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 20.0% of residents in zip code 32145 are Black or African-American versus 5.6% in St. Johns County.  African-American youth are an underserved demographic in St. Johns County 4-H clubs.  Until spring 2015, there was only one community club in that zip code with no minority club members.  With the awarding of the Tech Wizards grant, a technology program delivered in a group mentoring setting, an opportunity to change this situation became available.  The challenge facing 4-H was recruiting enough local volunteers to be mentors.
Objective:  Secure volunteer mentors for the Tech Wizards program who reside in the area surrounding Hastings.
Methods: A needs assessment was completed for the population in this zip code.  The school district middle school science coordinator and the Parks and Recreation community center supervisor were interviewed to determine the needs of middle school youth in the zip code 32145.  Educational programming delivered experientially using up-to-date technology and equipment was identified as a need for the middle school youth that attended Parks and Recreation afterschool and summer programs.  When meeting with key community stakeholders and offering resources to address this need, these stakeholders offered assistance recruiting volunteer mentors for the program.
Results: After one year, the number of minority volunteer mentors has grown from four to nine. All mentors, except two senior 4-H youth, were referred by key community stakeholders so that the program could successfully serve local middle school youth.  In addition, residents in the area have begun to recognize 4-H as an organization that cares about the future of their children.  Prior to this program, 4-H and its impact were unknown to the community.
Conclusion: Because 4-H completed a community needs assessment before meeting with key community stakeholders, the stakeholders were receptive to 4-H serving their community.  They were willing to contribute their efforts to make 4-H successful in this underserved area.  The program continues to grow and the partnership with Parks and Recreation has been renewed for another year.

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