America Supports You: 4-H Provides Ways to Help Military Kids
By Spc. William E. Henry, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 2, 2008 In mid-March, Indiana school administrators, military support groups and volunteers met at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville, Ind., to learn about ways to assist children affected by a family member’s deployment.
One way is through “Operation Military Kids,” a program initiated by U.S. Army Child and Youth Services. Now in 42 states, the program works through the 4-H program and other volunteer organizations that connect with military youth and provide support through a network of community resources.
"The idea of the meeting is to give training to the educators to know what steps they can take to form the right connections (to help military kids)," said Judy Hauser, 4-H project coordinator.
She stressed how important these connections were in establishing resources to assist military children in times of trouble or confusion.
"Socially, it gives them support through being able to interact with other kids on their level, do fun activities away from school, plus gain support from the volunteers," said Amy Nierman, a 4-H member with the Purdue Extension. "It gives the youth an opportunity to meet with other kids throughout the county, focusing on things they are interested in.”
During family meetings like those held by the Family Readiness Group for the Indiana National Guard, 4-H volunteers try to provide children with fun educational activities, including packets created specifically for them.
Another program 4-H participates in is the assembly and distribution of "Hero Packs" for children. Hero Packs are backpacks or sacks filled with fun things to occupy children's time.
"When you work on projects with kids, they tend to talk more and open up about things," said Jacque McBride, a counselor at South Elementary School, in Danville, Ind.
She said the program has given her a lot of insight on things that could be done when dealing with military children. "I think it will help give me some ideas on who to talk to, and things to do with (the children),” McBride said. “I would like to be more connected with them and be more open.
“I've been brainstorming some ideas on, like a wall of fame for the military, to put up in the hallway and things like that," she added.
4-H is a youth organization administered by the Cooperative Extension System of the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the mission of "engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development." The four "H’s” stand for head, heart, hands and health. The organization provides extracurricular activities in every county in the United States, including arts and crafts, photography and working with animals.
(Army Spc. William E. Henry serves with the Indiana National Guard.)