February is Heart Health Month – Hit the Trails for Your Heart

people walking on a shaded, snowy trail in the winter
Photo: Virginia Raff, Shoreline Greenway

February is heart health month – to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it. Walking is one easy way to increase physical fitness. Every step counts. Most adults should try for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate intensity activity. 30 minutes of brisk walking on at least five days a week is one way to meet this goal. Break it up in 10 minute segments – before , during and after work is an easy way to do this. Or do 30 minutes before or after work by walking in your neighborhood or on a walking trail. Know your maximum and target heart rate by checking the American Heart Association webpage at You can learn tips for walking to improve your heart health! Find more information at:

This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are extension educators in health education and community development committed to implementing a social ecological approach to health education as well as understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health.

My 4-H Story: Samantha Smith

Samantha Smith with chicken

4-H has impacted my life by teaching me that even in the hard times you should hold onto your project and never let go.  4-H has also taught me how to do math. 4-H has helped me with my spelling. Through my 4-H years I have learned a lot. I have learned patience while working with my animals.  It has helped me with setting and reaching my goals. It has made it so I know how to set goals that I can reach in a set time. The rewards that I have gotten out of my 4-H years are knowing how to deal with all sorts of different people.  I have also learned a lot from being president in my club. I have learned how to deal with adults and how to talk respectfully to them. I have learned that people like to have fun and I want to better learn how to incorporate more fun into our meetings to hopefully keep everyone involved.  The rewards I got from my citizenship and leadership opportunities are wisdom, understanding, and knowledge on how to deal with all sorts of people. I think I need more experience in being a leader to expound on my leadership skills. Some of the problems that I have experienced from these experiences are trying to keep the other members of my club interested in the meetings and getting people to come to the bake sales and the community services that the club does.  I hope that by going on this trip I can learn how to better myself in these areas so the club will be more profitable for our community. I hope that the experiences I have had in 4-H and the ones to come will help me with getting in to the college that I want to go to, and I hope they will help me get a job when I am ready to get one. Sure not all my 4-H experiences have been good ones, but I have learned from all of them. I hope to learn from the ones I get in the future.

By Samantha Smith

Applications Open for FoodCorps CT

FoodCorps service member banner photo

Are you ready to #serveupchange in your community? Apply now for a year of service with FoodCorps Connecticut! The deadline is March 15, but aim to submit early: we’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis. Go to to apply yourself (or share this post with a leader who shares our passion for healthy food in schools!)

My 4-H Story: Olivia Hall

When I joined 4-H 5 years ago, I thought that I would just be learning about animals.  I had no idea that I would learn leadership, citizenship and public speaking skills that I would apply to many situations both in and out of 4-H.  I never imagined that when I joined 4-H, I would meet some of the best people in the world that would help me to grow as a leader in my community.

Through 4-H, I have set many goals related to my project and my community.  I used to think that because I had a goal, I had to achieve it, even if it was a minor goal.  4-H has taught me that I didn’t have to achieve my goal; as long as I tried my hardest, I was still achieving something, even if it wasn’t what I hoped for.  I would achieve the ability to say “Congratulations” to someone when they won the prize that I set as my goal. I would achieve the ability to say “I’ll try again next year”, when I didn’t get voted into the officer position that I hoped for.  Through 4-H I learned that no matter what I set as my goal, I will attain something.

Throughout my 4-H career, I have had many rewarding experiences, such as becoming involved in my community.  Through my club, I have raised funds for the Torrington Police Department for a K-9 bullet-proof vest. I have also assisted my club in raising money so that a veteran was able to get a service dog.  We also raised money for a shade awning at a local pound. It has been very rewarding to see a change in my community that I helped to facilitate. Another rewarding 4-H experience was when I ran for a leadership position on my county’s Fair Association committee.  I ran for the position of publicity chair, and was elected! I am enjoying having a role in planning and promoting this year’s 4-H fair. This has enabled me to meet people and network in my community.

After becoming active in my community, my biggest challenge has been the realization that 4-H is not widely known.  While venturing out into my community, I have had the opportunity to educate people about 4-H. By participating in the Litchfield County Ad Campaign, I have raised funds and helped raise awareness about 4-H and the opportunities that it provides to youth.

By Olivia Hall

School of Business Partnership Strengthens Extension

School of Business marketing students on an educational hike in the UConn Forest with Dr. Mike Dietz

Extension brings the research of the land-grant university to communities statewide. Other departments at UConn are helping Extension grow and impact new audiences with the research and resources they produce. We have built a partnership with the Department of Marketing in the School of Business that has transformed the marketing initiatives of UConn Extension, and strengthened our brand.

Our partnership started with a branding workshop presented by Robin Coulter, Professor and Head of the Department of Marketing. Jane Gu, Associate Professor of Marketing conducted a follow up workshop on digital marketing.

Extension educators completed an exercise on the importance of their programs prior to the fall 2017 Extension meeting. Responses were used to create a new mission statement for UConn Extension: UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems. Join us.

Summer interns in 2017 and 2018 have expanded our marketing capacity by developing initiatives and campaigns to increase awareness of Extension, building off of the previous work. Groups of digital marketing students in the School of Business chose Extension as their class project for the spring 2018 semester. Students in the undergraduate class focused on marketing UConn 4-H. The MBA students created a lifelong learning campaign for Extension that ties multiple program areas together.

The scope of work accomplished in a one semester course can be limited. Faculty in the Department of Marketing shifted the honors thesis for senior marketing students into a yearlong project with Extension. The class conducted research in the fall 2018 semester, and is currently developing and implementing a campaign to market Extension to UConn students.

Our partnership with the Department of Marketing has allowed us to increase the impact of UConn Extension, and raise awareness of the programs and opportunities available. Audiences that we are reaching were previously unfamiliar with Extension. We appreciate the opportunities that our partners in the School of Business provide to market Extension and grow our impact across Connecticut.

By Stacey Stearns

Job Openings with UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagram

We have jobs open at – an Assistant Extension Educator with UConn 4-H based in Torrington, an Assistant Extension Educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, and a Research Assistant 2 – Connecticut Farm To School Specialist based in Vernon. All positions will have statewide responsibilities. Apply today, applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis.

My 4-H Story: Maria Grillo

Maria Grillo

4-H has, in a sentence, taught me how to be myself and to tap into my full potential.  I was once a quiet kid who desperately wanted to speak out and have an impact but didn’t know how.  Now, I am a determined, confident young adult who can be heard the minute I walk into a room. I’ve come to realize that I love management and situations that involve directing or engaging others, especially to the goal of helping someone or having a positive impact.  My management skills have been built up through 4-H, during the many situations wherein I was responsible for leading a group. Leading camp activities has taught me quite a bit about flexibility in particular, as last-minute situations that need quick thinking to fix come up often at camp.

I attribute many of my successes thus far in life to 4-H.  This fall, I will be attending Yale University, and am certain that the time I spent with 4-H over the last several years contributed directly to my acceptance to that prestigious institution.  Indirectly, 4-H has made me the person that I am today, a person who can and will accomplish great things.

4-H has been a positive constant in my life, always there to remind me to smile.  4-H is one of the reasons that I am such a bright, shining force, dedicated to making everyone around me feel better about themselves and others.  I am passionate about self-love, especially among young people, and my 4-H experience – going to camp, meeting a wide variety of new people, discovering myself – is the reason that I can have such confidence.  4-H not only allowed me to see how widespread self-confidence issues are among teenagers and children by putting me in a situation where I became very close to so many kids, it also showed me that I was worthy of growing and becoming more self-assured.

My mother has been sending children to 4-H camp for twenty years.  I’ve attended for eleven years, and my siblings attended before me.  Every member of my family knows and sees the growth of children who experience 4-H.  Many of my relatives cannot believe how much I have changed in the last few years alone, and I always attribute it to 4-H.  As someone who wishes to someday work in public service, I know that the leadership, management and problem-solving skills that I have attained through my 4-H club will define me as an adult.  I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to 4-H for making me the person I am today, or how certain I am that I want to continue being an active participant in 4-H for as long as possible.

By Maria Grillo

My 4-H Story: Hannah Platt

4-H logo

For the past eight years 4-H has taught me many things that I probably would not have learned without it.  I have experienced how the association for the fair works over the past few years. I learned that without it, the fair would not happen.  Every one of the officers has their own role and has to stick to doing what they have pledged to do over the year in office such as sticking to their specific agenda and timeline, writing officer reports, and attending meetings.  I have learned a lot from helping at my brother’s school and how much effort it takes for some of the kids to do something that may be easy for us to do. It has taught me patience, tolerance, and compassion.

From 4-H, I have made certain goals that I probably would not have set without it.  For example, I would not have knitted certain projects if I did not set the goal to make something for 4-H.  It pushed me to knit something more difficult. I set a goal to learn how to canter off of the lunge line. This is something that I was not keen to when I started but made it a goal for 4-H.  I have also set a goal to either do public speaking, expressive arts, or even both. I learned that setting goals will help you achieve something more than if you just think about it.

From my leadership roles, I love seeing what I can do for other people whether it is making them smile or helping them do something that they need help with.  After helping someone, I feel glad that I made a difference. In Home Arts, I enjoy being a part of transforming the building from an empty barn to a barn full of wonderful projects displayed on tables, organized by category, covered with green and purple table cloths.

I have found that it is difficult for everyone in the meeting to agree on something.  Being a new coordinator, I was told that it would be my ultimate decision but still found it a little difficult to negotiate with people who had very strong opinions.  Also, when it is clean-up time for the end of the fair, a lot of people helped out during the first helf hour to an hour but after that, they did not help as much to clean up the tables and other things that had to be put away for the barn to be cleaned.  Something else that is difficult is not having people show up to the barn when they committed to help out during the weekend.

I need to learn to voice my opinion.  Most of the time, I have the right answer or right question, but I do not tell it.  This is something that I have been working on so I do not let something pass over if either I do not agree with it or have a question about something.  Something else that I need to learn is to feel comfortable in a group of people that I do not know. I am a shy person and do not speak up when I do not know who someone is.  In order to be a leader, people have to know what you want from them. You have to be able to handle criticism and understand someone else’s perspective.

From this past year of being the coordinator, I have been a lot better about speaking up and voicing my opinion.  While I was on CWF, I learned how to come out of my shell and not always need to feel that I need to be quiet or not speak up.  This trip has made me the most outgoing I have ever been in my life. It was an experience that I would never be able to take back nor would I want to.   I made a great bond with my county extension leader and have been able to talk with confidence I have never experienced before this trip.

The leadership abilities that I learn in 4-H will help me in the future because I will know how to lead something in the correct way and not in a rude or disrespectful way.  Everything that I learn in 4-H will help me with many things in the future such as: goal setting, short and long term goals, discussing different opinions and coming to a consensus.  I will know how to mentor someone in the future as others have mentored me. 4-H has also helped me to become curious and try new things. This a great way to come out of your comfort zone.

By Hannah Platt

My 4-H Story: Hailey Osika


Seven years ago, a friend of mine suggested that I join her 4-H group.  Eventually, I was convinced and decided I would try joining the group and “test the waters” so to speak, in order to decide if I wanted to be a part of it permanently.  To be honest, I didn’t go in knowing much about it or having very high expectations. I didn’t know if I would want to officially join, if I would event like the people in it, and I definitely didn’t know it would change my life.

I never would have imagined what an impact this program would have on me.  I grew up afraid of my own shadow and I don’t think I said a word at the first meeting I went to.  My silence didn’t last long. Since I’ve been in 4-H I have done things I never would have and come further than I could have ever imagined.  It might sound cliche, but I don’t think I would be where I am today without my club. My group is nothing short of extraordinary. Small but mighty I believe is the expression.  We might not be big but I have never seen any club as united and driven as ours. I have worked my way to being confident in myself to the point of leading our group as President for the second time.  I have also been secretary, treasurer, and have extended my reach to Fairfield County 4-H Teen Fair Board as the member and then chair of the Workshops Committee. There isn’t a person in the program that I don’t absolutely adore.

The setting that 4-H provides is unparalleled.  I have learned how to set goals and work towards achieving them each day.  4-H has taught me not only to be a good friend, role model, and citizen, but also to speak up for myself and not give up on anything.  It seems like once I got the confidence to speak up through 4-H the floodgates opened. Today, in addition to 4-H, I am a part of my school’s Writing Center as a tutor, Art Club, Debate Club, Key Club, Big Brother/Big Sister, Spanish Honor Society, and National Honor Society.  I have become not only proud of my accomplishments but proud of who I have become. Not only do I excel academically but I tutor and help others do the same. 4-H has made me more motivated, conscientious, driven and generally confident in myself. I tell others all the time that without this organization, I would still be sitting in the back of a classroom trying not to be seen.

These leadership experiences that I have acquired through 4-H have made it more likely for me to have a greater purpose in the future.  I no longer picture my future as being one in which I will work under someone else’s thumb. BY leading a committee on the Fair Board and even heading my entire club, I have become a new person.  I know how to organize projects, speak up and represent myself and others well, as well as speak tactfully while still communicating a message. I have even transferred the leadership skills. I have learned from 4-H to other areas of my life.  I lead discussion in class, represent a side in debates, and have event become a tutor in my school’s Writing Center, helping kids who are often older than me with their assignments. I have been an editor for a school newspaper and yearbook, and participate in clubs where I contribute heavily to committees and discussion.  Without 4-H I don’t think I would know how to be an effective leader and example for others.

Public Speaking was horrifying to me.  I couldn’t even fathom how I would possibly be able to stand up in front of twenty people and speak.  I was sure that I couldn’t do it. Even in classes at school when my grade was on the line I panicked if I had to speak.  Today, I can proudly say that I have been in the public speaking honor group four times. Not only is this a huge honor that proved to others I was capable, but it proved to me that I could do anything I set my mind to.  My latest speech was about introverted confidence and how you really don’t need to be loud and forceful to be thought of as confident. I have been invited to present this speech to another 4-H group because it might help others to believe in themselves just a little bit more.  I have never been more proud of a presentation that that one. I was thrilled to be able to advocate for the club that I believe gave me a voice.

I always knew that community service was important.  I genuinely care about others and my parents constantly told me how important it was to care about something bigger than myself.  The problem was, I was scared to even go help out at events by myself. Then, 4-H came along and made me go with my club and help someone else.  We did the Rake N’Bake and cleaned up leaves in the yard of an elderly person and I will never forget the smile that we got from the recipient of this small act of kindness.  Later we handmade dog bandanas to sell and raise money for a local animal shelter. I remember thinking that all I wanted to do was keep helping and finding new causes to support.  Before I knew it, I was taking on leadership roles within community service even without my club. I became a counselor for the Brookfield Vacation Bible School and had thirteen kindergarten kids to take care of and be responsible for.  I cannot explain the feeling of seeing the smiles on their faces when I danced with them or let them throw water balloons at me. I would have given anything to see those smiles, even if it meant a thousand piggy back rides. Since 4-H game me some courage I began to talk more in class and participate, which got me recruited for the Writing Center.  I began to tutor and at times had five students waiting in line for help on essays. The feeling is inexplicable when you know that you are helping someone achieve their own goals. Community service is what I love to do because I can be proud of the difference I make.

As a result of my leadership experiences I have run into some problems.  While I have learned to stand up for myself and have a bigger voice, this comes at a price.  The more we involve ourselves the more we interact with others in good and bad ways. I have had to fight for leadership positions against friends and sometimes have felt the burden of knowing that I deprived someone else of something they really wanted.  I have also unfortunately run into more competition with these friends. When everyone wants to be heard and feel important in a club or class, it is truly a hard task for me to separate feelings and my own desires. Sometimes I feel the need to back down to avoid crossing a friend.  However, 4-H has also taught me that I deserve to achieve anything I have earned just as much as anyone else. Real friends won’t risk the relationship for a title. During community service, I have run into problems with emotions I feel when I hear of other’s intentions during an activity.  I have listened to others speak of how they need community service hours and don’t actually want to be doing the task at hand. This truly makes me sad and is a big problem for me. I feel like I don’t want to be working side by side with people who have no desire to be helping someone else. Nevertheless, my outlook on this situation is simply to show these people the joys of citizenship and change their perspective on lending a helping hand.  Regardless of the problems I have faced due to my leadership and citizenship experiences, I have learned to focus on myself and if I am doing what I believe and know is the right thing to do.

There are many things that I can still learn to improve my leadership abilities and myself in general.  I think the biggest thing for me to remember is to always be learning and bettering myself. The 4-H slogan is “learn by doing” and I definitely live by it.  Even in my classes, there is always something more to learn and strive to understand. 4-H has taught me that I should always try to be the best I can be and do what is right for me.  I can still be a better speaker and work on this important skill. I can also work on becoming even more confident. Although 4-H has made my confidence sky rocket from where it once was, I think I still have timid tendencies that could be reduced to make me an even stronger leader.  Regardless of the lessons I still have to learn, the value of learning and developing is an extremely important life lesson that I might not have learned had I not joined my club.

In the future I have big dreams for myself.  I want to go to a good college and hopefully have a career in the science or math field.  The skills I have learned in 4-H will be invaluable when I move on to the next phase of my life.  Since having leadership roles in my club and fair board, I am not afraid to speak up and manage a group.  I know how to hear everyone’s ideas and be open to those that are different than mine. I have also been taught how to make a schedule and stick to it, as well as run a proper meeting and an organized event.  These skills will help me get into a good college, get a good job, and get promotions in the future. I am so excited for everything that I can now strive for, and I have to thank 4-H for giving me the courage I desperately needed.  Also, in the future I want to focus on always looking to better someone else’s life. I never want community service to be less of a priority and I want my future kids to have these same values. Citizenship will never cease to be important to me.  The experiences I have had in 4-H and the opportunities my club pushed me to take have shaped the person I am today and will continue to shape my future.

When I joined 4-H seven years ago I learned that it is a “global network of youth organizations” looking to help kids reach their potential.  This is not what it is to me. 4-H has become a second family for me, a motivator, a brighter future, and a more amazing experience than I could have even imagined.  I have truly “learned by doing” and I now know how to be myself, to lead, to be a role model, and to dream big because now I know nothing is out of reach. I believe in 4-H and everything it stands for and I am so appreciative of the opportunities it creates for myself and so many others.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this program is nothing short of life-changing.

By Hailey Osika

My 4-H Story: Elizabeth Hall

To some people my 4-H story might seem dull, but to me it has been an exciting adventure!  4-H has taught me responsibility and how my actions can positively affect my community. I have also learned leadership and citizenship skills that I have been able to incorporate into activities outside of 4-H.

Setting goals in my project area has encouraged me to always strive to make the best better.  I have also come to realize that setting the goal is what is important, not necessarily the attainment.  I have found that it is important to rise to the challenge of pursuing my goals whether I attain them or not.  For example, I set a goal last year to earn my CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Title with my dog, participate in local 4-H dog shows, and show my dog at the Big E.  I accomplished earning my CGC title with my dog and showing in local 4-H dog shows. I decided not to show my dog at the Big E because I knew she wasn’t ready.  Not attaining that part of my goal has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments and learn from my mistakes.

By participating in my community I have been able to share my enthusiasm for 4-H with many youth.  I was invited to visit an afterschool 4-H Explorer club and talk to the members about my 4-H dog project.  At the afterschool 4-H Explorer club I brought my dog and did a few demonstrations of what I do in 4-H. I found it rewarding to see how much the kids enjoyed asking questions about 4-H and playing with my dog.  I am glad that I can share my passion for dogs and 4-H with the public.

4-H has given me the ability to become a leader and problem-solver.  These are skills that will benefit me my entire life. I want to give back to 4-H by empowering other youth.  I want to share with them the strengths and opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to gain through 4-H.  I look forward to future years in 4-H in which I can perfect my citizenship and leadership skills to benefit my club, my community, my country and my world.

By Elizabeth Hall