I love feeling connected to Cornell through PRYDE

June P. Mead in conversation at the 2017 PRYDE Youth Development Research Update event

June P. Mead in conversation at the 2017 PRYDE Youth Development Research Update event

I’ve cared about 4-H for a long time—heck, I was in 4-H and a 4-H Busy Bees club member! When I came to Cornell for my doctorate, I knew how much 4-H had done for me and I felt a responsibility of sorts to find a way to “give back.”  So while finishing up my degree, I got connected to the New York State Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Educators (NYSACCE4-HE) and initiated a study of the role of 4-H in positive youth development.  In conducting focus groups for the study around the state with educators, volunteers, and youth, I began to get this, for lack of a better word, icky feeling that there was a disconnect between the university and 4-H. The connections didn’t seem to be as strong as they should be.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with Steve Hamilton on several projects and happened to be at a meeting where Karl Pillemer and Steve (both Cornell professors of human development) talked about some plans to put focused, academic leadership—and real dollars in the form of hiring new faculty and establishing a new program—into how New York State 4-H could be improved and elevated to a stronger position within the university. As Karl and Steve started explaining what would become PRYDE, I felt joyous. I really did. It was like this is what we needed for so long!  I knew that I wanted to be involved.

I love Cornell. I really do.  And I love feeling connected to the university through my involvement on the PRYDE 4-H Work Team.  I feel energized when I have opportunities to connect with campus faculty and do a “deep dive” into ways to improve our programs.  I believe there’s a deeper level of collaboration going on with campus faculty as a result of PRYDE’s connections with 4-H.

PRYDE’s focus on “purpose” has been a real eye-opener. When I first heard about the concept of how purpose informs and enhances youth development, I thought to myself, “Well that’s pretty obvious, do we really need to research it?” But as I began to appreciate how having a sense of purpose can be used conceptually as the framework for studying all kinds of things, it really helped me to think differently about how to approach all kinds of thorny issues, such as how to evaluate 4-H’s impact. 

My experience has been that county educators have a strong desire for campus-county connections.  They want to know that their work is supported and backed by solid, up-to-date research. When our CCE Broome 4-H Youth Development team was invited by Rachel Sumner to participate in a PRYDE focus group about how youth develop a purpose in life through 4-H programs, our team was thrilled!  The primary aim of the study was to identify features of 4-H programs that 4-H educators and volunteers believe make youth more likely to develop purpose.  Through their participation in the focus group, the entire team felt like they were being listened to and their opinions were valued and they were being involved in important research.

Experiences made available through PRYDE for the county educators help elevate the educators’ sense of being connected to the university. It was tremendously rewarding to me personally to have a role in creating these positive experiences and professional development for educators. Across the state, 4-H educators are conducting outstanding programs out of their own sense of commitment to working with young people and improving their lives through positive youth development. When “a place at the table” is created for county educators to be involved in research, they directly benefit from hearing from their coworkers and colleagues. These opportunities for collaborating with campus faculty elevate their sense of, for lack of a better word, ‘pride’ they have in their own work. Having a small role in facilitating that connection to campus through my role on the PRYDE Work Team is tremendously rewarding personally.

These opportunities for campus-county connections are energizing—and they’re vital to ensuring county educators can deliver high quality, research-based programs.   It just sort of reminds me when I do have these opportunities with PRYDE, why I love Cornell.


By June P. Mead

June P. MeadComment