community

Chris Collins: Making a Difference

By Cathleen Love

Chris Collins presenting the UPSTANDER awards at the Meriden PEP graduation in June
Chris Collins speaks at the Meriden PEP graduation in June.

Chris Collins moved to Meriden, Connecticut four years ago with his girlfriend and her two children. In his professional capacity he serves as a substance abuse counselor at Rushford at Meriden, an organization that offers a variety of outpatient programs and services, including counseling young adults about substance use disorders. A longtime friend of Chris’ invited him to participate in the University of Connecticut People Empowering People (UConn PEP) program. Because Chris wanted to learn ways to engage with the Meriden community, understand the school system, and make a positive difference, he agreed to attend.

The UConn PEP program in Meriden was funded through the Nellie Mae Foundation. Other UConn PEP communities apply for funding through the Connecticut Parent Trust Fund or local resources like the Liberty Bank Foundation. UConn Extensionprovides training and support for community agencies, school districts, hospitals, family resource centers, and correctional institutions across the state offering the UConn PEP curriculum and course.

Participants such as Chris come together for two hours a week for ten weeks to discuss topics including communication, problem-solving, values, parenting and other life skills that enhance parent leadership skills and community engagement.

For Chris, the content and format of UConn PEP fit his lifestyle and addressed his interests. Because dinner and day care were provided, participation did not require additional juggling of work and family time. Chris was seeking an opportunity to be more involved with his family, the schools, and the community. UConn PEP was a vehicle to make that happen.

In discussing the impact of the UConn PEP program on him personally, Chris recalled when his facilitator mentioned that the loudest voice is heard on most issues, he realized that unless he spoke up about his concerns than no one would know what they are. He said the resources and networking that are part of the 10-week program gave him perspective on power, and empowered him to become more involved. Learning about active listening also impacted Chris in that he realizes that listening first allows him to reflect on the issues before considering solutions.

Parent leadership skills are central to the UConn PEP curriculum. Before participating in the program, Chris thought using the “hammer,” or authoritative style, to discipline children was the only approach. UConn PEP classes discussed other tools for caring about his children while still providing a safe home with healthy boundaries and using alternative disciplinary techniques. Chris said having more “tools” for parenting is helpful in working with his children. These tools also impacted how Chris became more involved in the schools. Resources and networks in the UConn PEP program gave Chris ideas of techniques to use in working with teachers and parents in schools.

Participants in every UConn PEP program commit to finding and carrying out a community project. Chris shared that the impact of helping others makes you feel better than he could have imagined. His group collected books for children and they far exceeded the number of books they had put in their stated goal. When he assisted with the distribution of the books he said the smiles and joy he felt from the kids matched the smiles and joy of those giving them out.

Chris is currently serving on a Local Advisory Committee and he uses skills learned in UConn PEP to engage members of his community. According to Chris, the community seeks him out when they have questions or concerns. The community knows he will listen and that he cares about their issues. With parent leadership and community engagement Chris believes the UConn PEP program impacted how he makes a difference in his family, in the schools, and in the community.

Chris Collins along with Meriden Children First (MCF) Local Advisory Committee Members (LAC), with the support of Meriden Children First and the Meriden Public Schools, developed and implemented the UPSTANDER Awards. They established guidelines for nominating middle and high school students who through their actions have made a difference in the community. Chris along with the other LAC members worked on this project after one of the LAC members shared a story of her son being repeatedly bullied on his way home from school and another teenager deciding to walk him home every day. This intervention stopped the bullying. Chris and the other LAC members passionately turned a community story into action, by recognizing student UPSTANDER‘s who are doing the right thing without any expectation of recognition. Winners were chosen by the LAC after nominations and meeting rigorous guidelines. These award winners have stood out among their peers, going above and beyond with their actions. Thestudents received their awards in school and were recognized at the UConn PEP graduation on June 26, 2018.

During the graduation Chris spoke about the character of each award winner and the meaning of the UPSTANDER award. He also shared how important it has been to him to have the chance to participate in the UConn PEP program to continue to give back to the Meriden community while collaborating with other dedicated parent leaders. Chris and the other MCF UConn PEP graduates have gone above and beyond continuing their leadership journey in the Meriden school system and community. In addition to graduating from UConn PEP, Chris is a member of Meriden Children First Local Advisory Committee. He and the other LAD members have continued their leadership training by attending a public speaking workshop with Paul Vivian, 12 hours of Race and Equity training through National Conference for Community Justice (NCCJ) and attending a Nellie Mae conference.

UConn PEP is an example of how a research grant can turn into over twenty years of service to the state. UConn Extension received a USDA State Strengthening grant in 1996 to create, deliver, and evaluate a parent leadership program in Connecticut. Since receiving that grant over 3,000 state residents have participated in UConn PEP, the parent leadership program created by the grant. Over 25 community agencies, school districts, family resource centers, and faith-based communities across the state have partnered with the Extension to offer the program. The research on the program suggests that the UConn PEP program was effective in influencing positive changes in participants’ life skills, personal relationships, and community engagement among an ethnically diverse sample.

For more information on the UConn PEP program visit pep.extension.uconn.eduor email Cathleen.Love@uconn.edu.

Cooking with EFNEP at Morris Street School

EFNEP graduation photo Since, 1969, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has helped families in Connecticut learn about healthy eating, physical activity, cooking, and shopping on a budget. Despite being an affluent state, nearly 1 in 5 families with children in Connecticut is food insecure, or does not have adequate access to healthy food. Many urban areas in Connecticut are amongst the poorest in the country. Additionally, access to healthy food is a challenge in rural areas where transportation is a barrier. EFNEP staff work in these areas of greatest need in Connecticut, striving to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

Heather Peracchio and Juliana Restrepo-Marin from UConn Extension EFNEP in Fairfield County teamed up with Danbury’s Morris Street School Family Resource Center to provide a series of classes on healthy eating, exercise, cooking and food safety to new mothers. The classes covered topics such asportion sizes, recommended servings for different age groups, and how to use MyPlate Daily Checklists. Access to vital emergency food resources, like food pantries and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were also discussed. Participants learned how to make smart drink and breakfast choices, how to read nutrition labels and compare nutritional facts, and how to shop smart and find the best value. The educators completed hands-on cooking demonstrations with the group, using healthy, affordable and easy-to-prepare recipes from the Cooking With EFNEP cookbook. The class also discussed how to incorporate more physical activity into the day, with a Zumba class that was led by a participant that was a certified instructor.

Upon lesson completion, participants were given the opportunity to comment on the course and what they learned. Overall, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Here’s what some participants had to say:  “I learned many things, such as: how to control sugar portions, I learned about oil, food prices and how to incorporate seasonal fruit in my recipes.”

“I loved this class very much. I learned how to eat healthier, buy better food, check the products’ labels and how to add fruit in my meals.”

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn in this nutrition course. Thanks to Viviane for organizing this class and making it possible. I would also like to thank Miss Heather and Miss Juliana for teaching us how to cook healthy meals for our daily lives. I learned a lot from you and I hope this is not the last time you teach us.”

“I would like to thank teacher Heather, Juliana, the translator and Viviane for this great effort and support to all of us with the nutrition classes. This has been very helpful. We learned how to eat healthy.”

For more information on how you can become involved in UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or to see our recipes, and other information, go to efnep.uconn.edu or find us on Facebook at UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program- EFNEP or Twitter at @UConnEFNEP!

Article by Madelyn Zanini

Seedling Sales!

New Britain ROOTS summer program participants with vegetables they grew in the garden
New Britain ROOTS summer programming in 2017. Photo credit: Molly Deegan

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to get seedlings in the ground! If you are looking for locally grown seedlings for your garden, the following community based organizations are hosting seedling sales to support their work. See below for the listing of organizations in Connecticut who will be hosting sales:

New Britain ROOTS:
Thu, May 10th: Pulaski Middle School, 3pm-4:30pm

757 Farmington Ave, New Britain, CT 06053

 

Friday, May 11th & Friday May 18th: Gaffney Elementary, 3:30pm-5pm
322 Slater Rd, New Britain, CT 06053

 

Friday, May 25th: New Britain High School, 2:30pm-4pm
110 Mill St, New Britain, CT 06051

 

Common Ground:
Saturday May 12th, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
358 Springside Ave New Haven, CT 06515

plants growing in a school garden
Photo: Molly Deegan

Fresh New London:
Saturday May 19th, 2018, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

120 Broad St., New London, Connecticut 06320

 

New Haven County Extension Council

Thursday, May 10th, 2018, 2 pm – 6 pm

Saturday, May 12th, 2018, 10 am – 1 pm

305 Skiff Street, North Haven, Connecticut

Check out our two projects run out of UConn Extension that specifically promote local sourcing, both in the Connecticut community and in Connecticut Schools: Put Local On Your Tray and Heart CT Grown. Local sourcing includes local gardening supplies, both for school gardens or for home!

Growing Gardens, Growing Health in Norwalk

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

student in Norwalk with strawberry in the garden
Photo: Heather Peracchio

Growing Gardens, Growing Health connects low income parents and their children to instruction, hands-on practice, and resources for gardening, nutrition, and cooking in order to encourage healthier food choices for the whole family. Over the course of the past 6 summers, participants worked with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist from EFNEP and certified master gardeners from Extension to plant and grow fresh vegetables and herbs. Over ten weeks, families received practical, family- and budget-friendly information about nutrition and built essential skills by making fun, healthy recipes. Each week children of the families learned about MyPlate and the food groups through fun and interactive games and activities with the help of EFNEP volunteers and an Extension summer intern.

Economically disadvantaged families were recruited to participate in a 10-week, hands-on, nutrition and gardening education program (n=35). Program goals were to enhance participants’ knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy associated with purchasing, preparing and consuming produce; incorporating physical activity into everyday life; and gardening and growing produce for personal use. Childhood obesity rates are higher than national average, 39% in this city. The Growing Gardens, Growing Health program helps families work together to grow fruits and vegetables on a community farm, learn about nutrition and how to prepare healthy foods in the on-premises, fully equipped kitchen classroom, and enjoy the freshly prepared fruit/vegetable-based meals as a group seated around the table. Local health department educators partnered with University Extension educators including a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), bilingual program aide, Master Gardener (MG) volunteers and student volunteers to implement this program. Data collection included a pre-post survey (n=21), and participants demonstrated increased readiness to change physical activity behaviors (47%), cooking behaviors with vegetables/fruits (40%) and consumption of 5 servings vegetables/fruits daily (31%). A family shares, “I am so glad we committed to this. We are eating better, with more nutrition, using less of a budget.” In summary, garden-based nutrition education that is family-focused may improve physical activity, vegetable/fruit consumption and self-efficacy associated with purchasing, preparing, and consuming produce; such improvements may decrease risk of obesity.

Survey on Community Investment in Economic Development

Survey Seeks to Understand How Connecticut’s Communities Invest in Economic Development

By Daniel Case, Grossus [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons
By Daniel Case, Grossus [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons
Do you have a hand in economic development for your community or region? This month economic developers across the state will have the opportunity to participate in the first Connecticut Local Economic Survey coordinated by the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension in partnership with the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM). The purpose of the survey is to understand who is involved in economic development activities in Connecticut and how economic development strategies are conducted at the local level over time. Anyone participating in economic development activities at the local, regional or state level is encouraged to participate by visiting the online survey available at http://s.uconn.edu/ledo

According to the developer of the survey, Laura Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator with UConn Extension, the results will be used to help municipalities and organizations identify opportunities to coordinate on regional strategies, make comparable investments in economic development, and implement strategies that are most effective. “This study will help communities see where they stand compared to others in and outside of Connecticut.” The survey includes some questions that are also conducted as part of a national survey implemented by the International City County Management Association every five years.

The results of the study will be made public in Spring 2018, and participants may opt to have the results sent to them as soon as they are available. The survey asks about structure and organization of economic development functions in organizations and municipalities, investments being made in economic development, strategies being implemented and how are they evaluated, and demographic information about economic development staff.

For more information about this survey please contact Laura Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator, UConn Extension, laura.brown@uconn.edu, 203-207-0063.

Cooking Matters

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

EFNEPChild First Groton funded a Cooking Matters Families program open to all school age children and parents. The plan was to improve family relations and learn a skill together. UConn EFNEP worked in collaboration in the planning, marketing and executing this successful program. We were overwhelmed with responses and had to start a waiting list for further programs. The Groton Elementary School supplied a staff member who was an asset to this program in education and facilitation. During our first class we had 13 people attend: 6 parents and 7 children, ranging 4-8 years of age. The children were very involved and one boy said “This is the best day of my life,” setting the stage for the next 5 weeks of out program. The cooking facility was very small to accommodate this large group of 13 with 4-5 staff. But everyone who participated worked together to ensure safety and fun.

At the conclusion of the program the group had really grown and come together. The comments we received from the families were “The kids are helping more in the kitchen,” “We are closer as a family,” “When is the next class, we want to sign up?” ” I never thought they would eat those things.” Hearing these comments help volunteers, teachers and staff motivated to keep doing what they are doing. Watching the children eat their creations each week is a complete success in itself. ” I didn’t think I would like it but I did,” “I have never tried ground turkey before! I will use it at home.” The families were each sent home with ingredients to make the recipe again and the stories were very interesting. “We froze the ingredients so they wouldn’t go bad and made it 2 weeks later,” “We took the ingredients and some extras to make it ours.” Each week seeing the families working together as a team meant we were doing the right thing. One obstacle that occurred included fitting the class into the families’ busy schedules, with conflicts with school, work, and health issues. Working to find times that best fit everyone’s schedules helped the participants, and they felt valued by the adjustments that were made. In conclusion all the participants stated that they would attend another session, they had fun and benefited from getting to know each other better.

Urban Agriculture Extension Program

farmers market
Urban agriculture students at the Danbury Farmers Market.

German Cutz is our Extension Educator for Sustainable Families and Communities. Here is a quick snapshot of a few of his programs for this fall:

  • Nine out of 11 participants completed the year-round urban agriculture training in Bethel. They graduation ceremony is being planned for January 16th, 2018.
  • Bethel urban agriculture program is currently recruiting new participants for the 2017-2018 course. There are six participants for the new round.
  • Bridgeport urban agriculture program started on November 16th. Green Village Initiative (GVI) is collaborating with UConn Extension providing classroom and garden space. Thus far, 15 people are enrolled in the program.
  • Knox Farms in Hartford has agreed to start the urban agriculture program in spring 2018. No date confirmed yet.

CT 4-H Explorers Program for 5 & 6 Year Olds

By Pamela Gray, New London County 4-H Program Coordinator 

In response to requests from leaders and parents for the UConn 4-H program to incorporate Cloverbud-age youth, we ran a pilot program in 2017 for 5-6 year olds. With pilot year success, it is now an official addition starting 2018!

4-H Explorers is an age appropriate 4-H experience for five and six year-olds (plus seven year-olds/special needs youth who find this setting more suitable than a 7-19 age club). Explorers Club members do not have pro-jects or competitions. Instead, they explore all the different activities and experiences 4-H has to offer, and participate in events and meetings through activity-based, cooperative learning and positive encouragement.

The focus of activity-based learning and feedback is to pro-mote the 4-H’ers’ confidence in meeting new 4-H explorer members working in barn carrying haychallenges. Re-search on these age levels indicate the best way to build confidence is to provide many opportunities through activities that emphasize success, however small. The CT Explorers use The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities (Ohio State University) and Clover Adventures: A Leader’s Resource Guide (University of Maryland Extension) curriculum. The activities in these books are specifically designed to meet the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of this age group, while being framed in the 4-H experiential learning model. Busy, messy, and hands-on are the motto for Explorers Clubs! Each club receives the curriculum from their 4-H office when Leaders are trained and the club is enrolled.

The CT 4-H Explorers at the Fair outlines how Explorers can participate meaningfully at the county 4-H fairs while not engaging competitively, and the CT 4-H Explorers Activity Summary provides a way for kids and/or clubs to reflect on their activities and successes. What were Ivan’s favorite activities this year? “Making pasta salad for Food Show,” and learning to hold a rabbit.

4-H explorers showing goats at county 4-H fairExplorers from clubs in New London, Middlesex, Litchfield, and Fairfield counties participated in Giddy-up Games, Food Shows, Public Speaking, and Skill-a-thon. In their club meetings they visited farms, learned how maple syrup is made, learned about birds, played in some dirt (planting seeds), cooked, made dioramas, posters, and collages, and much more hands-on learning.

One 4-H Explorer Leader observed “some things that attract new-to-4-H families are: no cost to join, no dues, and no uniforms to buy. The curriculum is varied, flexible, and parents stay for meetings and get involved.”

Heading into the 2018 4-H year, we have 16 Explorers Clubs across the state and 74 kids. If you would like to learn more about CT 4-H Explorers or how to start a club, click here for the handbook or contact your county 4-H office.

Lifelong Learning Classes in December

string group

CLIR, a lifelong learning program offered in collaboration with UConn Extension, will hold the following classes in December, all in Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus.

Tuesday Dec 5  Origins, Measurement, and Management of Stress and Anxiety    1:15 – 2:45

Wednesday Dec 6  Medical Marijuana and Cancer:  What’s the Evidence?       1:15 – 2:45

Thursdays, Dec 7 and 14     Memoir Club                   10:15 – 11:45

Engaging Communities with UConn PEP

The University of Connecticut People Empowering People (UConn PEP) is a personal and family development program with a strong community focus. Retired UConn Extension educator Cherry Czuba started the program in 1996 with a USDA State Strengthening grant to the Department of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Building upon individual strengths the program encourages growth in communication, goal setting, problem solving, parent and family relationships and community involvement. While participating in the UConn PEP program, participants set goals, develop relationships and make connections. They also find their voice, share stories, and begin to believe they can make a difference.

family at PEP
A family at a 2016 PEP program.

UConn PEP expanded to other states, including Michigan, California, and Missouri. Connections were made with professors in South Africa and Egypt to establish the program in universities in those countries. The broad reach of the program continues with Massachusetts, Vermont, and Florida actively teaching PEP programs in 2016.

PEP participants realize their leadership potential and invest in themselves, their families and their communities. The program continues to grow through support from our partner organizations, including school districts, nonprofit organizations and faith-based communities. Funding for the programs comes from the state and local government, foundations, and local businesses.

Questionnaires are administered to all participants before programming begins and after it finishes in partnership with the Center for Applied Research in Human Development (CARHD) at the University of Connecticut. The pre-test questionnaires contain close-ended questions to measure self-assertive efficacy, sense of mastery, parental satisfaction, family problem-solving communication, and community engagement. The post-test questionnaires include the same questions as the pre-tests, as well as open-ended questions that asked participants about their overall satisfaction and feedback about the program.

Based on the data collected, CARHD assessed the effectiveness of the programs. Key findings from the analyses of the close-ended were that UConn PEP participants showed significant positive changes on self-assertive efficacy, sense of mastery, parental satisfaction, family problem- solving communication and community engagement.

Cherry Czuba
Cherry Czuba

The UConn PEP program has positively influenced communities across the state, as over 50 towns have had programs in the last twenty years. Participants enjoy the classes, the stories shared, the laughter, the trust within the group and the comfort in sharing and speaking with one another. The UConn PEP conversations empower participants to accomplish or obtain something. Every moment, every word, every tear, every laugh and every lesson becomes permanently ingrained in their minds and in their hearts.

For more information on the UConn PEP program visit http://pep.extension.uconn.edu or email cathleen.love@uconn.edu