J. Sprain, UF/IFAS Extension, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL.
Situation: More than 2,000 students in Osceola County are homeless, 25% are English Language Learners (Education Foundation, Osceola County), and more than a quarter of school children are on their own after the school day ends (Afterschool Alliance). The factors of homelessness, poverty, language barriers and a lack of adult supervision, create a challenging environment for young people to develop life skills and prepare for tomorrow’s workforce in Osceola County. As a result, a mentoring program was implemented to focus on life-skill development. Methods: 4-H Tech Wizards is a mentoring program that pairs mentors and mentees in group style mentoring, while focusing on life-skill development. Adult Tech Wizard’s mentors work with the youth 13-18. One hundred and seven youth, and 24 mentors participated in the program in 2016-2017. Results: The results of a pre/post–test (n=107) show that because of their experience in the program youth are increasing their development of life-skills. 61% of participants increased their comfort in making their own decisions (decision making). 78% of participants increased the frequency of having a plan for reaching their goals (goal setting). 52% of participants increased the frequency in which they can explain that their decision is a good one (critical-thinking). 61% of participants indicated that the frequency that they listened well to others and were respectful of others increased (concern for others). Conclusion: Studies have found that youth who participate in 4-H and mentoring programs are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviors, have better peer-to-peer relationships, as a result of life-skill development (Lerner et al, 2012, DuBois et al, 2011). These factors lead to productive, well-adjusted citizens prepared for the workforce. By participating in the National 4-H Tech Wizards program, 107 youth in Osceola County have developed life skills leading to productive, well-adjusted citizens ready for the workforce.