Supporting military families and their communities
by Samantha Huff
Youth and their families make lots of sacrifices during military deployments. Children with mothers or fathers in the military can go for months without seeing or hearing from one or both of their parents. To alleviate some of the issues that come with deployment, Virginia 4-H is helping youth from military families through two programs: 4-H Military Clubs and Operation: Military Kids.
4-H Military Clubs are supported by the 4-H Military Club Grant, provided collaboratively by 4-H National Headquarters; U.S. Army Child, Youth & School Services; Air Force Airman and Family Services; and Navy Family Readiness.
The program reaches Virginia military families who live on installations and in communities with little or no military support and provides youth learning opportunities centered on the three initiatives of 4-H: science, engineering, and technology; healthy living; and citizenship. There are 4-H Military Clubs on 11 of the 17 installations in Virginia, as well as two off-installation clubs.
“It has been exciting to read 4-H installation reports and view pictures that reflect how 4-H Military Club members are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills,” said Louetta Jones, 4-H Military Clubs program manager.
In 2012, the Dahlgren 4-H LEGO Engineers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., won first alternate and best robot design during a regional robotics competition. Two members of the Prince George 4-H Military Club and the Virginia Cooperative Extension agent who is the club leader recently participated in the 2013 Adobe Youth Voices Summit in Santa Clara, Calif., where they explored expression through digital media.
Operation: Military Kids, which caters to approximately 150,000 children, strives to connect military and nonmilitary youth with local resources to achieve a sense of community support and enhanced well-being. Toward this end, Operation: Military Kids offers programs and support to community and military partners, which on the national level includes 4-H; Boys and Girls Club of America; American Legion; U.S. Army Child, Youth & School Services; Military Child Education Coalition; and Child Care Aware.
Through Operation: Military Kids, Virginia 4-H encourages military youth to meet other young people who are experiencing deployment; participate in a range of recreational, social, and educational programs; receive assistance with school issues by connecting with school services liaisons; and attend various residential experiences ranging from wilderness adventures to family camp.
“These programs help to meet the unique needs of military youth and their families by providing them a safe and supportive learning environment during the challenging times of deployment,” said Kathleen Jamison, 4-H youth development specialist and state liaison for Operation: Military Kids.