Yesterday I had some email exchange with Patty Adams, Editor in ANR Communications, who helps me with the weekly Spotlight and if I were a superstitious person, I might think she somehow connived to give me a series of reminders that our youth programs are really core to our future success. So here’s what happened:
Patty sent me a draft of Spotlight with some stories that we had talked about previously and others that folks had sent to her as suggestions for the Spotlight. Our goal with Spotlight is to be sure the spotlight of attention shines on various people and programs in MSUE to help us all appreciate what our colleagues are doing and to get some ideas and inspiration from our program impacts. So this week’s draft had three stories that featured youth programs and I wrote back to Patty that I thought I’d hold one off for next week and perhaps suggest that another one be told by someone else through some other venue. I’m mindful that each of our Institute program areas has stories to tell and I aspire to be balanced in where we shine the Spotlight. Patty responded tactfully that we get loaded up with youth stories because those are the ones we receive suggestions on the most. So there’s a message for folks in other programs – feed us some material so we can have a balanced showcase in the Spotlight.
In the course of the past few hours, I’ve received emails about a great story that will be in the New York Times Magazine this weekend (already available on the web) that features work of the youth farmstand project in Monroe County and its impact on Alexandra Reau who has started her own venture, growing produce for a 14 member Community Supported Agriculture group. If that name seems familiar, it should: Alexandra is the daughter of Brenda Reau, Extension educator from Monroe County and Mark Reau. This story is a great complement to a story that was in the Lansing State Journal earlier this week which used the MSUE 4-H Discovery Camp to illustrate the new directions we’re going with our programs by highlighting the bio-fuels and alternative energy focus of the camp. And it complements two other stories on youth programs that were in the news this week: the recognition of a mentoring volunteer from Ottawa County, Harry Leeuw as a finalist for the Mentor of the Year award presented by Governor Granholm last week, and the work of Gary Williams, Extension educator from Wayne County whose position and program are a joint effort between Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment and MSUE to reach youth in urban communities across southeast Michigan with outdoor skills and youth development as a focus.
And I spent the morning in dialogue with Extension directors from the north central region (Michigan west to North Dakota, south to Kansas and east to Ohio) about how we can work together to address the needs and issues in metropolitan communities across the upper Midwest. Chuck Hibberd, Director at Purdue University, captured the essence of our discussion with the observation that everything we do in metropolitan communities should ultimately result in children and youth being successful in becoming productive contributors to the future of our metropolitan communities.
Okay – I got the message! By saying that the focus of our redesign is to better prepare Michigan for a prosperous future, certainly one of the measures of our success will be on whether today’s infants, children and youth are better positioned to succeed in Michigan’s future economy. You can find more details about the Harry Leeuw and Gary Williams stories by going to my blog. In the meantime, whether your programs are affecting today’s children and youth directly or not, I’d really appreciate your help in calling attention to those people and programs that signal what difference we make in Michigan’s current and future state.