University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H recently received two national awards for excellence in programming and for research and evaluation from the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals (NAE4HYDP).

In early 2021, UMaine Extension 4-H partnered with Greenheart Exchange to launch “4-H Passport Around the World,” a virtual special interest club whose purpose was to connect Maine teens with teens from across the globe to foster relationships and spark interest in a variety of cultures. 

Over eight months, Extension 4-H professional Sara King and former Extension 4-H professional Sara Conant developed three, six-week sessions for youth ages 9–18. Each session included a presentation from a Greenheart exchange student, a hands-on activity related to their culture, and a question-and-answer discussion session. Some of the countries visited include Bangladesh, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kosovo and Ukraine. Their work is the national winner of the NAE4HYDP Excellence in Global Citizenship Programming award.

Extension 4-H professor Kristy Ouellette won the Susan Barkman Research and Evaluation Award for her 2021 case study, “Understanding the Perspectives of First Generation 4-H Members.” Ouellette’s study involved 12 first-generation Maine 4-H members, ages 14–19, whose demographics were similar to state 4-H enrollment figures.

Results of the study suggest that the 4-H program model provides connections and opportunities for young people that they would otherwise not typically access. In addition, because 4-H staff and volunteers play critical roles in creating connections and relationships with young people, adults must come to understand each individual and suggest experiences that support each young person’s goals and potential.

Ouellette’s study promotes including 4-H and other positive youth development frameworks in influencing policy to foster social and emotional learning skills, stating “policymakers at all levels should look to form stronger youth-adult partnerships when creating policy.”

Lisa Phelps, Extension 4-H program administrator, said, “Dr. Kristy Ouellette’s research is significant and the results of her research will help strengthen the Maine 4-H program. This award is well deserved and she should be commended for this scholarly research.”

Recipients will receive their awards at the NAE4HYDP national conference in October. More information about the Maine 4-H program is available on the Extension 4-H website or by contacting 207-581-3877 or 800-287-0274 (in Maine).