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4-H Receives Additional $6 Million for Operation Military Kids Support in 15 States

Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff, (202) 720-8188

October 1, 2007

National 4-H Headquarters at USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) received an additional $6 million in funding from U.S. Army Child and Youth Services to expand outreach activities of the Operation: Military Kids (OMK) project. OMK is a national collaborative effort to support children and youth of deployed National Guard and Reserve soldiers, who often live far away from military installations that provide support to families of other deployed troops.

The new funding will initiate OMK projects in six new states and expand existing OMK programs in 15 states by hiring fulltime OMK coordinators and adding educational programs for military youth and families.

OMK programs operate in 36 states through day and weekend camps, Speak Out for Military Kids speaker's bureaus, and well-equipped Mobile Tech Labs at county and state fairs and community events across the country. These programs have reached over 30,000 youth whose parents have been deployed.  In addition, more than 75,000 “Hero Packs” have been delivered to military youth across the nation. Hero Packs are packages made to thank and salute children of deployed parents for their sacrifices and contributions while their parent is deployed in the service of our country.

OMK is part of larger 4-H partnership with both the Army and Air Force. Since 1995, National 4-H Headquarters–CSREES has worked in partnership with U.S. Army Child and Youth Services (CYS) and Air Force Family Member Programs to extend 4-H to U.S. military families worldwide. In July 2007, CSREES signed an agreement with the U.S. Navy Child and Youth Programs (CYP) to initiate the USDA/U.S. Navy 4-H Youth Development Project. Like existing 4-H partnerships with Army and Air Force, this project will be a collaboration of National 4-H Headquarters, 4-H faculty of land-grant universities and Navy CYP staff.

4-H Youth Development professionals will take assignments at Navy locations to provide training and technical assistance for Navy staff and to support the establishment of 4-H clubs on Navy bases worldwide. The Navy will join Army, Air Force and National 4-H Headquarters in providing military 4-H club grants to state 4-H programs.  National 4-H Headquarters–CSREES is developing an agreement with the University of Hawaii to manage the Navy 4-H Youth Development Project.  

M.A. Lucas, director of Army CYS, initiated the agreement with National 4-H Headquarters in 1995 to establish the 4-H Army Youth Development Project. Over 11,000 Army youth are members of 429 4-H clubs in all states in the United States, South Korea and Europe.  Understanding the value of 4-H club membership to Army youth and the resources of the Cooperative Extension System to Army youth programs, Lucas has expanded 4-H to new audiences and created new ways to work collaboratively.  For her work, she will be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on October 5, 2007.

Agreements with Army, Air Force and Navy brought more than $19 million to 4-H this year. These monies have all been distributed by National 4-H Headquarters–CSREES to land-grant universities for a wide variety of educational programs and research in support of children and families of men and women who are serving in the military.

As a result of these 4-H military projects, over 16,000 Army and Air Force youth belong to 4-H clubs on bases and in communities, and 30,000 youth of National Guard and Reserve members have benefited from OMK programs.  4-H county and university staff have provided educational training to 3,400 military staff, 21 4-H extension professionals are on special assignment to military locations and 13 university faculty have grants to administer a component of a 4-H military project.   

Kansas State University, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, Washington State University and Auburn University manage the 4-H Army Youth Development Project through cooperative agreements with CSREES.  Kansas State University and the University of Hawaii have cooperative agreements to manage the Air Force and Navy programs.  State 4-H military liaisons, appointed by state 4-H leaders, coordinate 4-H work on all military installations in their states—linking military staff with their county 4-H counterparts. They have rallied partner organizations, educated citizens and responded to calls for help from youth and families of the military—expanding understanding of military culture and impact of deployments and opening 4-H to new audiences around the world.