leadership

New UConn PEP Facilitators Trained

Group activity at the UConn PEP facilitator training in Haddam in early October Robin Drago leading group of new PEP facilitators at training session in Haddam

New UConn PEP facilitators in a group discussion Robin Drago and one of our new UConn PEP facilitators

Congratulations to our newest People Empowering People (UConn PEP) facilitators who completed their training last week. UConn PEP is an innovative personal and family development program with a strong community focus. Learn more or join us at https://pep.extension.uconn.edu/

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

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

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

Garret Basiel: From 4-H Project to College Essay

Garret Basiel was a 4-H member in Middlesex County and is a freshman at UConn this fall in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. This is the college essay he submitted with his application.

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

My fingers felt raw, but I once again pulled back the bowstring and aimed down range at the target. After my quick lesson on safety and proper form, I spent at least four hours at the archery range that day in 2010 during my local 4-H fair. The arrows skewed across both the target and ground alike, but every time one hit anywhere near the center of the target, I was delighted. This single positive experience led me to learn not only about fletchings and points but about myself too.

As a novice 4-H club member, I made a very small contribution on the range when we brought our equipment out to local fairs. After hauling out the targets and setting up a safety line, I might chip in information on a shooter’s form every once in a while, telling them to “straighten your feet” or “keep pulling back,” but I still lacked the confidence to address the masses that poured through our setup. Despite these crowds, I managed to find time to shoot for myself. I would launch as many arrows as I could, reducing me to sore set of fingers and a pair of tired arms trembling, just as they were my first time there. A year rolled past and, thanks to my club leaders, I was able to consistently nail the bull’s eye.

Yet as my skill increased, my confidence and courage did too, and I came to discover how much I enjoyed assisting others. By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered. I shared their excitement as their skill progressed having heard “Look what I just shot!” and taking part in high fives more than a few times. My shyness was clearly on the way out.

As I matured and gained more experience over the years, I was able to fulfill assorted jobs on the fair ranges. Older club members, who used to help people put on their arm guards or teach them how to shoot, aged out, leaving me with more responsibility. I felt comfortable walking adults and teenagers through the process, but my hardest challenge was helping young children, who struggle to listen to instructions and even to pull back the bow string. I still remember the first girl who I knelt next to. I helped her straighten her arm and adjust her feet before I helped her tug back the bowstring. I urged her “Keep pulling, you’re almost there” as I had heard my club leader say so many times before. We both smiled when her arrows hit the target. Each year I have helped at the archery range I have become more dependable. Now I even run the range, not only teaching but announcing “Begin shooting” or “Go get your arrows” whenever my leader is busy.

I am very grateful that teaching archery helped me come out of my shell. Addressing the groups of people coming through our archery range gave me new found courage that has carried over into my other parts of my life. I now take on leadership roles in class, finding myself leading groups through trigonometry projects, and at cross country meets I feel more comfortable conversing with other runners. I feel ready to bring this same confidence over to my upcoming college years.

Service is a Family Tradition

The University of Connecticut People Empowering People (UConn PEP) received a generous gift from the estate of the Reverend John Evans, a lifelong Episcopal priest. The donor was Cherry Czuba, retired Extension Educator from Haddam, and niece of John Evans. He was a charismatic and fascinating uncle who endeared himself to many people. Throughout his long ministry he was called the “Singing Preacher” and “Musical Chaplain” because of his musical gifts, and “God’s Funny Man” by one of his former professors because of his wonderful playfulness.

One of the most defining moments of John’s life was volunteering on Ellis Island. He lived at the Seamen’s Church Institute from 1948 through 1954. On Tuesdays and Thursdays in 1954 John took the ferry to Ellis Island and played and taught harp, banjo, guitar, piano, and music to the bedridden detainees through a self-taught numbering system. He was the last chaplain on Ellis Island. At a New York event, Ed Sullivan cited John Evans for raising the morale of seamen. Shortly after, the New York Sunday News carried a picture story of his use of the banjo in quelling a waterfront disturbance. Later in his life John donated two of his harps to the museum at Ellis Island.

The gift to the UConn PEP program exemplifies the values John Evans showed in all of his life work and service. UConn PEP was created to serve families by giving them

UConn PEP Meriden graduates in 2018
Graduates from UConn PEP’s Meriden program in 2018.

skills to lead and make a difference in their communities. It is an innovative personal and family development program with a strong community focus. The UConn PEP program is for adults and older teens, and is designed to build on the unique strengths and life experiences of the participants and emphasizes the connection between individual and community action.

UConn PEP poster from Bristol participants
UConn PEP project description from a Bristol class.

Because the UConn PEP program is adaptable to a variety of settings, the program is offered throughout the state at family resource centers, community agencies, discovery centers, faith-based communities and correctional institutions. Over one thousand people have graduated from the program in its 22-year history. Dr. Cathleen Love has coordinated the PEP program since Cherry’s retirement. “PEP thrived because Extension shifted off of the county-based programs to statewide programming, and that was through the vision of our administrators at the time, Dr. Nancy Bull and Dr. Roger Adams,” Cherry says reflectively.

“My uncle and I enjoy giving back. I wouldn’t have had all of these opportunities without Extension,” Cherry says. “I think many of my fellow retirees can reflect on the wonderful opportunities they have had as well. Uncle John felt a sense of gratitude for what can be done when everyone contributes. I’m grateful for what I have and despair for what others don’t have. We tend to stereotype and not talk about inequality. My uncle fought stereotyping throughout his life and modeled it for me.”

The strength of UConn Extension programs is in our network and our knowledge. We educate and convene groups to help solve problems in the areas of food, health and sustainability. Even in retirement John Evans helped serve others, a family tradition that Cherry continues today. Through his actions, John modeled that when people volunteer, they give back and develop friendships. Cherry really enjoys what she does as a volunteer and gives back however she can to many different organizations. The tradition of volunteering in Cherry’s family taught her to broaden her horizons, build relationships, have fun, continue to grow, and try new things. Communities depend on active volunteer bases to grow, improve, and serve their citizens.

The UConn PEP program serves many first-generation immigrants. “Uncle John so believed in that feeling of being with immigrants, and understanding that we are all immigrants. John would love the fact that UConn PEP is reaching out to such a diverse audience.” John Evans passed away two years ago at age 98, the last of his generation in the Evans family. The gift to the UConn PEP program in his memory is helping the program reach new audiences, and John Evans continues serving communities through UConn PEP.

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

PEP Celebrates 20th Anniversary

family at PEP
A family at a 2016 PEP program.

In 1993, Extension Educator Cherry Czuba and a social services coordinator in a Windham low-income housing project taught family life information and community development strategies to five natural leaders in the community. Each participant committed a year, attended ten 2-hour training sessions, went to monthly meetings, and addressed community issues through projects. In 1994, Cherry worked in Vernon to address growing crime. Then, a VISTA worker was obtained later that year to conduct the program in Brooklyn and Danielson.

Partnering with Extension educators Cathy Malley and Ede Valiquette brought the program to Danbury, Manchester, Hartford, East Hartford, and West Hartford. Additional VISTA members allowed expansion to Vernon, Enfield and Meriden.

From these initial programs, the UConn People Empowering People (PEP) program was founded in 1996, and steadily grew. Over two thousand people have graduated from the UConn PEP program in the past twenty years.

UConn PEP is a personal and family development program with a strong community focus. Building upon individual life experiences and strengths the program encourages growth in communication, goal setting, problem-solving skills, parent and family relationships and community involvement. Cherry retired in 2013, and Cathleen Love, Ph.D., UConn Extension Professor, now coordinates UConn PEP.

While participating in a UConn PEP program, the participants set goals, develop relationships and make connections. They also find their voice, share stories, and begin to believe they can make a difference.

An early participant from Enfield reflected on the program, “UConn PEP changed my life for the better. If it weren’t for UConn PEP, I wouldn’t have the job I have today. UConn PEP helped give me the drive to want something better and gave me the confidence to believe that I could do it. It also helped me be a better parent.”

UConn PEP expanded to other states, including Michigan, California and Missouri. Cherry worked with a professor from South Africa to establish the program at the University of Pretoria. The program continues to have a broad reach, with Vermont and Florida actively teaching PEP programs in 2016.

In the words of one of the recent UConn PEP graduates, “I learned from every UConn Extension PEP participant in my wonderful group. I re-learned things like trust in groups. I came to appreciate different lifestyles and different ways of thinking, living, caring, sharing and teaching. The UConn Extension PEP program helped me renew my faith in how wonderful people are. It has reopened my eyes to how important differences are in people, in every aspect, but yet in the end how we really are the same and that we, each one of us, can make a difference.”

During the UConn PEP program, one woman set a personal goal to go to college. She is now working on her bachelor’s degree. She believed she could do it, set her goal, and her passion and commitment gave her the courage to follow through on her dream to go to college.

The student says, “The opportunity to participate in UConn Extension PEP changed my life. I had begun to feel unworthy, unintelligent, unappreciated. This program built and renewed my confidence in myself. For that I am so appreciative.”

PEP participants realize their leadership potential and take action to invest in themselves, in their families and in their communities. The program continues to grow through support from our partner organizations, including school districts, nonprofit organizations and faith-based communities.

In partnership with the Center for Applied Research in Human Development (CARHD) a questionnaire was administered to all participants before programming began (i.e. pre-test) and after programming finished (i.e. post-test). The pre-test questionnaires contained close-ended questions to measure self-assertive efficacy, sense of mastery, parental satisfaction, family problem-solving communication, and community engagement. The post-test questionnaires included 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, CARHD assessed the effectiveness of the programs.

Key findings from the analyses of the close-ended were that UConn PEP participants

1) Showed significant positive changes on self-assertive efficacy and sense of mastery.

2) Showed significant positive changes on parental satisfaction and family problem-solving communication.

3) Showed significant positive changes on community engagement.

4) Overall were very satisfied with the program.

Responses to the open-ended questions indicated that participants found the program to be useful and helpful. They felt that the community project was beneficial to the surrounding communities and provided an opportunity to be involved in their community. Overall, the participants showed improvement in all three targeted areas (individual assets, parent/family relationships, and community engagement) following completion of the program.

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. Looking to the future, UConn Extension has created an endowed account at the UConn Foundation, the Cherry Czuba UConn PEP Program Fund to provide permanent support for the program.

“I enjoyed every moment of our classes,” another participant shares. “I loved the stories we shared, the tears we shed, the laughter, the trust within the group and the comfort we felt in sharing and speaking with one another. Our ‘PEP’ talks empowered us to accomplish or obtain something. Every moment, every word, every tear, every laugh and every lesson will be a permanent tattoo, not only in my mind, but in my heart.”