PRYDE powerfully, efficiently connects Cornell students to 4-H
A major goal for 4-H in New York State is to build stronger, more vibrant relationships connecting 4-H educators in the field and researchers at Cornell. The decision in 2012 by extension leaders from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Human Ecology (CHE) to move the campus-based 4-H leadership team from extension administration in CALS to the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) in CHE was strongly tied to the effort to increase campus-county connections. From my perspective this experiment in innovation is surpassing expectations, although there was, until recently, a missing ingredient. The missing element is now being addressed by the emergence of the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE) in ways that are exciting and surprising.
Extension and 4-H communicate to the public that local programs will reflect the latest scientific evidence from Cornell and that this connection to the research leads to better outcomes for youth, families, farmers, and communities. Likewise, direct engagement with Cornell students has the potential to elevate the 4-H program. PRYDE has emerged as a powerful mechanism for getting undergraduates involved with 4-H. My experiences with PRYDE and the PRYDE Scholars program have convinced me that engagement with Cornell students will transform 4-H in the years ahead.
The rising juniors who were the first PRYDE Scholars in 2016 are now seniors preparing to bring their knowledge gained in the program so far to a deeper level of engagement with 4-H programs around New York. I have had several opportunities to work with the scholars, including a recent “field trip” to observe 4-H in action at the New York State Fair. The conversations I have had with the scholars make it clear that they bring at least two new and potentially transformative dynamics to 4-H in NYS:
- Undergraduates have the ability to look both forward and backwards in ways that can bring energy and new ideas to 4-H. The PRYDE scholars are not very far removed in age or experience from 4-H program participants. This relatively small age difference allows them to reflect more deeply than faculty and educators about the experiences the youth are having and how these experiences may be establishing the foundation necessary for college and career success. In addition, their experiences at Cornell and exposure to the ideals of translational research uniquely positions them to make observations and suggestions that fit with the research goals of PRYDE and 4-H but also are more likely to reflect the realities of working with the youth of 2017.
- The PRYDE Scholars are actively contemplating their personal goals regarding careers and continued education. All of the PRYDE Scholars will be making unique and important contributions to the world. The depth of exposure to 4-H and the extension system they are experiencing as undergraduates has the potential to open up many additional possible graduate level programs and professional goals for these students. There may or may not be future 4-H educators, youth development researchers, or extension administrators in the group, but their knowledge and experience with 4-H will likely stick with them as they formulate longer-term goals.
The synergy between 4-H and PRYDE is an early success story tied to the decision to bring 4-H into the BCTR. The seeds being planted now through the PRYDE Scholars Program could blossom in interesting and unforeseen ways in the future for the college and for 4-H!