Avi Newman, Engaged Citizen Corps Member

My name is Avi Newman, and I am a first-year student studying International Business and Spanish. I am a part of the Drake Engaged Citizen Corps interning at the Polk County Iowa State Extension and Outreach 4-H. 4-H is a non-profit organization across the United States that bases out of different state universities and works to educate and empower the youth that they reach. At the Iowa State Polk County Extension and Outreach 4-H, we focus on reaching the youth in Iowa communities and giving them resources to learn and be able to grow in many areas of their life.

What are the main roles I have at Iowa State Extension 4-H?

  • Create and Plan Virtual Programs
  • Pack Program Kits
  • Work on a 21-day Awareness Program

Creating and Planning Virtual Programs:
Every week, I teach lessons virtually to a group of elementary aged youth. The lessons consist of different program focuses such as STEM, Healthy Living, Leadership and Civic Engagement, and Communication and the Arts. The programs are cross-disciplinary where each of the virtual lessons that I plan lead the youth to learning different skills.

Packing Program Kits:
When preparing the programs, there is a variety of items needed to be able to carry out each week. Some examples of the different programs that I have prepared and taught are Coat of Arms, Stunning Sculptures, and Healthy Hearts. Each of those had different materials needed so that the youth could fully participate in the virtual setting.

Working on a 21-Day Awareness Program:
One of my tasks this year was to create and implement an awareness program that I would be passionate about and dedicated to. The project I created was a 21-Day Poverty Awareness program that is to be implemented in March of 2021. This will consist of 21 days of facts, challenges and resources surrounding poverty. I believe that poverty is a very important topic to address and spread awareness for every member of the community, and especially through COVID-19, it is important to inform youth about the difficulties of poverty.

Social Challenges and COVID-19 Impact:
There are many challenges that youth in Iowa communities face every day. Prior to COVID-19, youth faced challenges with insecurities, problems at home, drama at school, and more. Now, during COVID-19, youth have had to overcome the challenges of virtual schooling, isolation at home, enflamed family struggles, and the uncertainty of the future in a seemingly chaotic world. Through working at a non-profit, I have seen firsthand the complications that a community faces, both before COVID-19 and after. Polk County 4-H is working to continue to support their youth and deliver the same quality of life as before. The community is affected by a number of things, and I desire to create awareness surrounding the difficulties that every individual may face, young and old.

What have I learned?

  • There is value in empowering the youth of our communities.
  • I can strengthen the voices of these youth by taking time to listen and teach.
  • Non-profits have many purposes and different people they serve.
  • Education is valuable and change begins in our youth.
  • We can come together as a community through this pandemic.

First, empowering youth in our community is extremely valuable. Every week, I see the amazing faces of my 4-H kids virtually. Each one has a story and an opportunity to share their voice. Through teaching lessons that give them tools to go out in their life, I can give the youth that I reach the gift of empowerment. By teaching but also listening, I want to create an environment that gives each child the integrity to speak. At 4-H, we structure each virtual lesson with this model: Do, Reflect, Apply. We first “Do” the activity such as creating a journal, dancing to music, or learning how to make a rocket. Then, we “Reflect” and give our 4-H kids time to process what they have learned. During this time, we ask for volunteers and really try to affirm each individual answer. Finally, we “Apply” by also taking time to use what we learned to discuss what we can do going forward.

Next, non-profits are a lot more complex than I had imagined prior to being in the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC). Through speaking with my other ECC members, I have learned a lot. Non-profits cover a range of social issues such as housing, food, social justice, youth, and many other things. At the non-profit that I serve, 4-H has opened my eyes to learning that children need to be poured into so they can create change in the future. That leads into another lesson I have learned: education is a valuable way to create change in our youth. Educating and giving children the tools that they then use throughout their lives is the greatest way to assure change in the future. I also like to give each child the opportunity to have their own diverse thought because I want to give them the space to feel free to share.

Finally, we can come together through these hard times of COVID-19. It is so difficult watching the way we interact with each other go almost completely virtual, and the realities of loneliness, fear, and frustration creep into our lives even more. I desire to strengthen and allow the children the feel the emotions that these times are bringing, while also giving them tools to be able to move forward in stride.

Empowering youth is our future. I have seen firsthand the effectiveness of doing this through Iowa State 4-H. When looking forward to what we want our futures to look like, we need to focus on our youth. These are the people who will make change and create a better world to live in. As I continue forward, in the present in college working at 4-H, and into my future jobs, I want to use what I have learned to impact the people around me, especially the youth.

If you would like to get involved with volunteering or learning more about the Iowa State 4-H community, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/.