Thursday, July 13, 2017

Former 4-H Participant Shares Experience at National CYFAR Meeting

Andre Joseph 
Approximately 14 years ago, Andre Joseph joined the afterschool program at the Croixville Apartments where he changed from a wayward young man to a budding poet. Now an aspiring businessman, he is presently a student at the University of the Virgin Islands – Albert A. Sheen Campus majoring in Business.

That after school program was a part of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Cooperative Extension Service’s Children, Youth and Families At-Risk Program. Program coordinators were excited about the selection of one of its former participants in the local CYFAR program to participate in the recently held National CYFAR Meeting in the Washington D.C. area in May 2017. Joseph, one of three former CYFAR participants from throughout the United States (U.S.) was chosen to make presentations to an audience of over 250 attendees representing the U.S. and its territories. Attendees wanted to hear how the CYFAR Program impacted the former participants’ lives. The two-day meeting also emphasized the importance of evaluation of programs, building community partnerships and strategies for increasing sustainability of programs.

During the presentation at the National CYFAR meeting, Joseph indicated that he was a wayward youth and joined the program only at his mother’s insistence. Being slightly built at approximately 10 years of age, he was attempting to appear ‘bad’ so the bigger fellows would not bully him and therefore he tried to “out-bully the bullies.”  Such behavior created disruption in the program amongst the other youth, so a decision had to be made regarding keeping him involved. The site coordinator at the time made a decision to try to keep working with him, and over the years the behavior changed. He emerged as an excellent example of what the CYFAR afterschool program could do for the youth, and the over 250 plus attendees at the national meeting gave him a rousing round of applause following his presentation which he ended with an original poem he had written. Going from a menace as a child to a second-year college student at UVI was seen as quite an accomplishment.

In a poem, Andre wrote entitled “The Open Road of Success,” he makes mention of the fortitude and perseverance needed to achieve success.
“The open road of success doesn’t mean that you’ve reached your maximum potential in achievements.
Success is the overall experience that one has journeyed through to get to a particular position of might and will….
The road of success opens after hard work, dedication, and most often after tribulation.
In thus, success is the entity of our lives in which, with a little patience can be achieved by anyone. (Andre Joseph, 2012)”

“He [Andre] is a good example of the 4-H motto ‘to make the best better,'” said Lois Sanders, CYFAR project director at Cooperate Extension Service. “When youth are given the opportunity to succeed they are quite capable of “stepping-up to the plate” to display their best.”

Under the auspices of the National 4-H Program, CYFAR is federally funded and seeks to improve the quality of life of youth and families across the nation. Approximately 47 CYFAR programs exist throughout the U.S. and are managed through land-grant institutions, like UVI, receiving funds from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

At Tutu Highrise on St. Thomas and the New Testament Church of God on St. Croix, five to 14-year-olds get a steady stream of information and experiences in nutrition, gardening, and physical activity during the afterschool program held Monday – Friday. The participants also received tutoring, homework assistance,  and 4-H programming with involvement from parents and volunteers.

In the earliest iteration of the program, computer technology was the primary focus of programming to minimize the digital divide in the country. Although computer technology continues to be important in the program’s mission, special emphasis is now placed on the aforementioned focus areas in light of the increased national concern regarding obesity. The current program in the territory is entitled, “Healthy Youth Leading the Way in the Virgin Islands.” With an overall goal of reducing childhood obesity and modifying the eating habits of youth, the program seeks to have a long-term impact on the health and welfare of the community.

For additional information regarding the CYFAR Program, contact the UVI/CES - 4-H/Family and Consumer Sciences Program at (340) 692-4094.