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.
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.
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.
There are more than one hundred UConn Extension specialists working throughout Connecticut. These educators are teaching and training in local communities, sharing their experience and knowledge with residents through a variety of programs. These instructional activities now will be easily accessible with the creation of an online extension course catalog.
Extension classes address a wide range of topics, including issues related to agriculture and food systems, the green industry, families and community development, land use and water, nutrition and wellness as well as numerous 4-H and youth activities. The website uses these groupings and an A to Z index so finding offerings is simple and straightforward. Each program links to a page with information on the objectives, goals, components, intended audience, the time of year and how often programs run and a link to the program’s website, that provides additional information.
As part of a nationwide network through the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment.
Congratulations to our most recent UConn Extension People Empowering People (PEP) graduates from Meriden! The People Empowering People Program is a personal and family development program with a strong community focus. Created by Cheryl Czuba, UConn Extension Educator, the PEP program builds upon individual life experiences and strengths to encourage growth in communication and problem solving skills, parent/family relationships and community involvement. The PEP program is coordinated by Cathleen T. Love, Ph.D, UConn Professor of Extension [more].The PEP program has graduated over one thousand people in over fifteen years.
A UConn Extension People Empowering People (PEP) class in March 2015. Madre Latina Inc., a Community organization from Waterbury visited. We were happy to have them because their experiences and knowledge help us to continue the process of help others. At another class, students made a game out of active listening and communication through crafts.
Every Saturday morning in Bridgeport, 4-H families gather for the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club. During this time, families eat together, have group discussions, and have fun. 4-H staff in Fairfield County created this program as part of its mentoring initiative because it saw the need to strengthen family bonds.
The mentoring program has three components: mentoring, family night, and the 4-H club. Youth are involved in all three activities. Seventy-five youth total are involved in the program and the Extension Office partners with the Regional Youth Substance Abuse Project.
Parents face increasing challenges in providing for their children as wages continue to decline. Some work second jobs while others have enrolled in continuing education courses. When several parents had to miss Family Night Out events for these commitments, we looked for alternative ways parents could participate in the program. And the breakfast club has worked well. The breakfast club has also been a great way to include fathers in the program.
Nearly 20 adults and youth attend this Saturday morning program. The club’s goal is to strengthen the parent-child relationship through group discussion, one-on-one interaction between parent and child, and fun, educational activities. 4-H staff provides a free, full course breakfast made possible by community donations to set the foundation for a better day by nourishing the body.
Each week focuses on a different topic. Some past examples include: creating a collage of their family, family values, trust, communication and working together. Saturday Morning Breakfast Club also focuses on having fun with your family.
During the discussion, a book is passed around that begins with one poetic line. Everyone must write a line of their own that builds upon the line before theirs. At the end of every session, the lines are read aloud and the result is a beautiful poem that sounds as if it were written by one person. The purpose of this activity is to show the inherent and positive connection that exists between people’s thoughts.
The Saturday Morning Breakfast Club has proved to be a valuable way to enhance the mentoring program and increase the family strengthening opportunities in Bridgeport.