youth development

Hartford County Urban 4-H

jumping jacks  group stretching playing with Wii

The Hartford County Urban 4-H after school programs are free for children age 7-19. Youth enrolled in Urban 4-H receive effective hands on STEM related activities which include but not limited to: health and nutrition, science related activities, social skills, and work force readiness courses.

On May 26th at the Boys and Girls club in Hartford the group had our annual end of the year after school program wrap up celebration. On May 28th in Hartford at Thirman Milner School our wrap up celebration was held to conclude the 2015 afterschool program.

Learn more about the Hartford County Urban 4-H program by contacting LaShawn Christie-Francis at 860-570-9008 or

National 4-H Conference

In April, four Connecticut 4-H members and chaperone Rineicha Otero of UConn Extension attended the National 4-H Conference in Washington D.C. Each of the 4-H members participated in a roundtable project. Their assignments were: 

Molly Barnett – Adolescent Health – Presenting to the Department of Health and Human Services

Lily Barton – Military Families – Presenting to National Guard Bureau

Danielle Brazeau – Future of Agriculture – Presenting to U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee

Ben Hipsky – Energy Conservation/Environment – Presenting to the Department of Energy

Rineicha Otero – Food Security/Hunger – Presenting to Peace Corps

Several of them reflected on the experience. 

4-H delegates with Courtney

Molly Barnett

I’m blessed to have had the inspiring opportunity to attend the National 4-H Conference this past week. I worked with a group of delegates from across the U.S. and Canada to prepare a presentation on our opinions and ideas concerning adolescent health. After several conferences to discuss our thoughts and create a presentation, we presented to the Department of Health and Human Services. I felt like they really appreciated our perspective, and I’m honored to represent today’s teenage generation, and to help make a difference.

This has also been a special opportunity to meet many amazing people. I talked with teens from a diversity of 4-H backgrounds, and although our experiences and projects differed, we all shared the same love and passion for them. It was a great experience for me to connect and talk with these wonderful people, and I learned that I can make friends wherever I go in life. I also learned how great it is to embrace these opportunities when they come. This whole trip just really made me excited for the rest of my life, and I know I can have a voice in this world too. I’m feeling very grateful and I can’t wait to share what I learned with others in my community.

Ben Hipsky

The 2015 National 4-H Conference held in Chevy Chase, MD at the 4-H center was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. After leaving on a Saturday morning and quick flight down with the CT delegation our first encounter with other 4-Hers was a group of young women from Missouri on the shuttle bus to the Conference Center. With our free time that afternoon we visited the White House and a grove of Cherry Blossoms. That night after the opening gathering we met in our designated round tables. Throughout the following four days we met with our round table groups, did workshops, and other various team-building activities. Over the course of the week, I became very close with the members of my round table; I met 4-Hers from all over the country, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It was great to see what people had to say about the differences in other states and countries. In my round table we covered Energy Conservation, which really opened my eyes to all that can change in each state, country, and in the world. After the group and I became such good friends, we started to refer to it as a family because we all treated each other like it. The whole experience was a great time for me, the conference center was very accommodating and had very helpful personnel. The hardest part was leaving the friends and new people I had met at the end of the week.

The amount of new information and new personalities I learned and met were extremely eye opening. All the new info on 4-H and its history was absolutely mind blowing. Not only was the 4-H program astonishing but the speakers and performers that attended the conference were also lesson teachers. One for example, taught us that you will always have a bull looking at you and you’ll always overcome it. Another blessing of being in the capitol city is meeting with the senators’ aids and some of the representatives. It was good to see that they understand the importance of 4-H and they hope to continue to fund it. While 4-H has been a huge part of my life I can honestly say that this was the best 4-H experience I’ve had and thank you to everyone who made it possible. While I cannot write all that happened this summary has covered the basics and I hope this shows that this is a great program that should be continually funded.

Rineicha Otero

Serving as chaperone for the Connecticut delegation was truly an honor. Observing the transformation of each of the teens was mesmerizing. The CT delegation met teens from across the nation, Puerto Rico, and Canada. After selecting the round table topics, the teens worked together for merely 14 hours to produce presentations to address important issues and present the information to federal agencies. Agencies to which the delegates presented to included; Peace Corp, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of Environment Protection, among others. During their presentations, teens provided their perspective on the different topics, offering suggestions on how the deal with the issues. The experience was transforming as the agency representatives had great feedback, questions, and listened to each of their suggestions to put into practice within the agency.

In addition, Connecticut delegates visited their representatives. During our visit with Congressman Joe Courtney, one of our delegates received a military challenge coin. It was moment our teen will cherish forever.

The overall experience of National 4-H Conference 2015 has encouraged our teens, to become active leaders in our communities. Through adult and youth partnerships, teens have been prompted to get involved in the decision making process because their views can change the perspective of adults on topics that can impact youths lives.

Connecticut 4-H Citizenship Day 2015

By: Marc Cournoyer

UConn Extension 4-H Program Coordinator


Approximately 100 4-H youth and adults converged on the state Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday, April 15th for the annual state 4-H Citizenship Day. Representing all corners of Connecticut, these individuals came together to meet with legislators, explore our state Capitol, learn a bit more about government and how they can be active citizens in their neighborhoods, communities and throughout the state.

The theme for this year’s event was Living Out the 4th H: The Science of Healthy Living. Youth and adult members of the CT FANs IM 4-H club of New Haven County provided workshop stations where event participants had the opportunity to tune up their physical health by dancing or playing sports using the Nintendo Wii gaming system and record small group videos on iPads about making healthy eating and life choices. They also learned about composting and home gardening skills, as well as, how much sugar is in many of the foods we eat daily. At the conclusion of the workshop sessions everyone had the opportunity to view a video that was created from the many small group efforts and photos from the various workshops. Winners of the state 4-H public speaking contest also gave their presentations to the group assembled.

After a healthy lunch, everyone ventured to the Legislative Office Building where they learned about the history of our state and the buildings that make up our state Capitol. They then had the opportunity to mingle with legislators and staffers from many districts around the state during an ice cream social featuring UConn dairy bar ice cream in the historic Hall of Flags. 4-H members shared poster displays they created about the day’s theme or discussed their 4-H experiences with legislators in attendance. They also delivered ice cream to the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices.

The day concluded with an orientation for 40 youth from throughout Connecticut who will be attending a weeklong national citizenship education program this June in Washington, DC called Citizenship Washington Focus. This national effort is sponsored and facilitated by National 4-H Council and is open to high school aged youth who are leaders in their club and county 4-H programs.

Much thanks goes to the group of 4-H youth and adults who met over the course of fourth months to coordinate the logistics of holding this event. Special thanks also to state legislators and staff who assist every year in securing necessary meeting space and other logistical requirements, and finally Emanuel Lutheran Church who has served as meeting place for this event for many years.

4-H members at Capitol 4-H member speaking

Get Ready to Guac and Roll!

By Catherine Hallisey

FoodCorps Connecticut Service Member

healthy snackIt all started with me holding up an avocado, screaming enthusiastically,


Unfortunately, my quirky pun did not elicit the response I had hoped for— instead students started groaning, “ewww that’s green” and “where’s the ranch?!” even “I am not touching that!”

Although these comments seem harsh, I was unfazed, for they are not out of the ordinary; in fact, I hear remarks like this on a near daily basis as a FoodCorps service member with the Tolland County Extension Center in Vernon.  I am constantly cooking with kids, mostly elementary school students; trying to introduce fresh, healthy foods into their diets.  This almost always means having to deal with the one, or two, or even twenty children who are hesitant to try something new.

And oh boy was guacamole a new one.  To the after school 4-H club, the avocado I was holding looked  like some kind of cross between a snake and a dinosaur egg, and they did not want to touch it.  My little cooks were being especially challenging today, it seemed.  After the group gathered the nerve to mash up the avocado with some tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and spices, we moved on to cutting veggies, and I started brainstorming how to get these students to just taste a little bit of our wonderful creation.

As I sat chopping carrots with a few especially obstinate fifth graders, I started explaining how nutritious an avocado was …more potassium than a banana, special fats that are good for your heart, fiber that keeps you full, etc. etc.  They listened and nodded their heads, but were not persuaded to try the dip that looked different than anything they had ever seen before.
making snackI racked my brain for a new plan, something fun, something unexpected.  Then it dawned on me- food art!  In what other setting would these students be able to play with their food? I took our giant bowl of guacamole, and started to spread it evenly on plates.  I gave each student a plate and various types of cut veggies and let them go wild.  Trees, flowers, smiley faces, abstract designs– you name it, and they made it.   It was messy, it was chaotic, and it was a success.  After all the effort each child put into creating their masterpiece, were they just going to let it go to waste? No! They were going to eat it- and soo
n enough, the “ewws” turned into “yums” and the “I’m not touching that” turned into “it’s not thattttt baddddd” (essentially a 5-star rating when it comes to fifth graders).  I sat back, crunching on a stick of celery, savoring my small victory, and brainstorming ways to get the students to try the hummus we’d be making the very next day.