From March 7 through March 13, Georgia 4-H joins thousands of 4-H Americans across the country to celebrate the valuable contributions of AmeriCorps members during AmeriCorps Week. AmeriCorps engages 270,000 Americans each year in sustained, results-driven service. AmeriCorps Week is a time to celebrate the impact of AmeriCorps programs and thank members for their service.
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and Georgia 4-H leverage the support of two AmeriCorps programs – AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and AmeriCorps State. Both programs strive to increase the capacity of Georgia 4-H and local 4-H programs.
“The goal of Georgia 4-H’s VISTA program is to eliminate poverty,” said Program Coordinator Keri Hobbs. “VISTAs build capacity within the 4-H program to reach marginalized youth via positive youth development experiences reversing negative statistical trends.”
“The goal of the AmeriCorps State program is to support the mission of Georgia 4-H through direct service by AmeriCorps State members (ACM) to reach more youth and expand educational opportunities,” said Program Coordinator Jennifer Cantwell. “ACMs focus their service on youth in school educational club meetings, 4-H Project Achievement and through developing new programs.”
Currently, Georgia 4-H has four VISTAs and 33 ACMs serving in 37 counties. Since 2010, at its inception, 69 Georgia 4-H VISTAs have raised more than $685,000 in resources, produced more than 1,500 marketing pieces and recruited and/or coordinated more than 3,250 volunteers. Since its inception in 2012, 205 full-time and 108 half-time ACMs have served more than 350,150 hours, reached more than 152,900 students through in-school programming, mentored 112,925 students through 4-H Project Achievement and recruited more than 1,900 volunteers who contributed more than 21,320 hours.
The AmeriCorps State program consistently exceeds grant performance measures. ACMs deliver surveys to youth to measure knowledge of content after in-school educational club meetings and increased capacity and confidence in public speaking after participation in 4-H Project Achievement. In the 2019-2020 program year, of youth surveyed after club meetings, 91% showed an increase in and/or demonstrated knowledge of the content presented. In the same program year, of students surveyed after participation in district 4-H Project Achievement, 87% demonstrated knowledge of best practices in public speaking and 87% indicated confidence in public speaking or showed an increase in public speaking.
During 2020, VISTAs and ACMs played a critical role in Georgia 4-H adaptive programming in response to COVID-19. VISTAs produced 14 videos to further the reach of programming that are now a sustainable resource and have reached more than 4,300 views. More than 225 youth were reached through the 4-H Youth Summer Health Squad virtual programming provided by summer VISTAs in five counties.
VISTA Summer Associates recruited additional volunteers to assist in their efforts in health programming, which included serving more than 6,500 pounds of food to more 2,500 individuals. In addition, Fulton County VISTA Mary Woo strengthened a local UGA Extension mobile market, “Fulton Fresh,” to serve more than 12,700 pounds of food to nearly 4,000 individuals in Metro Atlanta.
A growing body of research shows that service has an effect on more than just the communities served, but also on the members themselves. AmeriCorps alumni credit their year of service for developing leadership skills that bridges divides, solves problems and opens doors to opportunities that advance their careers and education. In addition, research shows that alumni gain skills and are exposed to experiences that communities and employers find valuable.
Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 190,000 people annually through the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offices and 4-H facilities. For more information, visit georgia4h.org or contact your local Extension office.