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). All of these factors create a challenging environment for young people to develop life skills and prepare for tomorrow’s workforce in Osceola County. To combat these problems, an afterschool mentoring program, 4-H Tech Wizards, was implemented at a local Title 1 high school to focus on life-skill development.
Methods: The 4-H Tech Wizards program is an afterschool mentoring program that pairs trained adult community mentors and local high school mentees in group style mentoring sessions, while implementing hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-based curriculum. Since 2016, thirty-two adult mentors have been trained to support over 288 youth.
Results: The results of the annual 4-H Tech Wizards program pre/posttest survey of program mentees, conducted since 2016, shows that 100% of program participants have developed at least one life skill and have built stronger relationships with those around them. 64% of participants increased how well they worked with others (teamwork). 26% of participants increased the frequency in which they can explain that their decision is a good one (critical-thinking). 62% of participants felt more confident sharing their thoughts and feelings with others (communication). 81% of participants indicated that the frequency that they listened well to others and were respectful of others increased (concern for others). In addition, 78% of mentees can work successfully with adults. 81% have a stronger connection with adults and their friends.
Conclusion: Because of the 4-H Tech Wizards program, over 288 youth have developed life skills and built positive, supportive relationships with peers and adults. These factors help youth to become productive, well-adjusted citizens prepared for the workforce.