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East Stuart Youth Improve Their Community – One Cat at a Time

Employing the “Targeting Life Skills” Model (Hendricks, 1998) is key to building every good 4-H youth development program. Experiences are provided to youth as a way for an extension professional to teach vital, real-world skills:

  • community service and volunteering,
  • responsible citizenship,
  • contribution to group efforts,
  • and problem solving.

Since October, youth at the 10th Street Community Center in East Stuart, Florida have been learning those very skills. After a needs assessment and grant application, the Community Pride SPIN Club received funding to solve one of their neighborhood’s most pressing issues: overabundance of feral cats.

For months, students have come together on a daily basis to conduct their service learning project, known as “T-N-V-R” or “Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release”. Partnering with the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast and the Martin County Sheriff’s Animal Control, youth brainstormed resources needed, locations to target, and strategies to trap the nuisance animals.

After a six week trial of T-N-V-R , the club’s youth selected two sites of feral cat populations, fed and trapped the cats, facilitated their transport, and returned the spayed/neutered cats to their home territory. They adapted as they trapped an uninvited raccoon. They adjusted when one site’s cats no longer would come to the bait! As a result, the neighborhood’s T-N-V-R cats cannot breed more unwanted animals, but maintain territorial boundaries and stabilize the population.

Clearly, community development and problem solving are not only in the realm of adult responsibility. Youth, when offered guidance, can become agents of positive social change. 4-H Community Pride offers an opportunity framework to develop tomorrow’s community leaders today. As one club youth stated, “If we aren’t there to do this [project], then who else will?”

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