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Q & A with Justin Crowe, 4-H Youth Development

4-H Health Rocks2

OCEO: What do you like best about the “Tennessee 4-H Health Rocks” program?

Crowe: The “4-H Health Rocks!” program is a nationally recognized and proven effective program which helps our county 4-H agents reach young people with essential messages related to healthy living and decision making. In other words, it works! We have implemented this program statewide since 2008 and have data to document the program’s effectiveness.

OCEO: What community need does your program/project meet?

Crowe: Our young people are faced with so many stressors, for beyond what I experienced growing up. This program helps provide young people with not only knowledge but confidence to make good, healthy decisions related to their overall well-being. As stated before, we know the program is effective.

Justin Crowe is an Extension Specialist who works with 4-H Youth Development with the University of Tennessee Extension

Justin Crowe is an Extension Specialist who works with 4-H Youth Development with the University of Tennessee Extension

OCEO: What have you learned about working with community partners in developing or running 4-H programs?

Community partners are an essential piece of what we do with UT Extension and 4-H. There are many organizations offering outstanding opportunities for young people. When the leaders of those organizations are able to come together, sit at the same table, and leave any territorial issues at the door, then we can truly be effective in working with young people. As it relates to 4-H Health Rocks!, we have been approached by a good number of local school systems, coordinated school health directors and county health departments asking to partner with us. They recognize 4-H as a reputable organization with research-based information for youth. Being able to partner with similar youth-serving organizations just makes sense. With that being said, it’s not always easy. Building a partnership takes trust, and that does not happen overnight. When that partnership is developed, however, the sky is the limit.

OCEO: What advice would you give someone else in a similar position as yours about developing external or community partnerships?

Crowe: First, practice patience. Good things may not happen overnight. These relationships have to be cultivated but in the end, they are well worth the time and effort.  Second: be willing to give and take. You are not the only show in town. It’s important to be flexible and willing so share credit and compromise (if appropriate).  Third: communicate. Don’t call only when you need or want something. Keep in touch with these program partners and show your sincerity toward the work they are doing (not just when it’s convenient for you).

OCEO: What challenges, if any, have you faced in working with the external community? How have you addressed them?

Crowe: At times, the goal of my program did not mesh with the goal of the external partner. Not every organization is going to be an ideal partner but if the two individuals (or groups) communicate  then at least those parameters are known on the front end. This happens far too often – two individuals representing their own organization discuss partnering, but they never really do their homework to discover exactly what the other organization is all about. Again, a communication issue.

OCEO: What does ‘Making a Difference’ mean to you?

Crowe: Making a difference goes far beyond research or hard data. It can be small scale differences like a young person who is now making healthier choices because of a 4-H program they attended. It might be a parent who has decided to change a non-healthy habit because their child came home from school sharing information they learned that day in 4-H. I understand that showing quantitative impact is important, but I never want to lose sight of the day to day impacts that are affecting Tennesseans one person at a time. When I hear those stories, I know we are “making a difference”.

OCEO: What did we forget to ask about?  (Tell us anyway!)

Crowe: [grin] Tennessee 4-H has been providing educational opportunities for young people since 1910. I am a product of the program and can share, first hand, the difference that 4-H made in my life.

4-H Health Rocks! was nominated as a Partnership that Makes a Difference.
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