Access 4-H enrollment system saves time, money and helps us to tell our story accurately

One of the core principles of our redesign process is to adopt emerging technologies to help us do our work more effectively and more efficiently.  Access 4-H is a great example of that principle put into action. Bethany Prykucki, Otsego County Michigan State University Extension educator is one of our early adopters and gives Access 4-H high marks: “It’s been wonderful. I can’t imagine how many hours it saved our office manager.”

 Access 4-H is an online enrollment system being implemented throughout the nation. First piloted by Oregon, it went live to a wider subset of states that included Michigan in spring 2009. In Michigan, four training sessions, led by National 4-H Council staff members Ki Augusto and Meredith Muckerman, took place in August 2010 in Delta, Otsego and Isabella counties, and here on campus in Ingham County. Julie Chapin, MSUE children and youth institute director, and Gloria Ellerhorst, MSUE 4-H Youth Development staff member, attended all of them, giving input specific to Michigan where necessary. Participants from all over the state took part in this initial training and then went back to their offices to share what they had learned. District 12 held additional trainings as did Otsego, Barry and Eaton counties.

 Bethany held a training for 4-H leaders at a computer lab at the University Center in Gaylord on December 4. Each club sent a leader and a member from each club came prepared with all of the information they needed to enter into the system. They also brought the enrollment fees for their members and submitted those at the same time. They were able to log in to Access 4-H that day and enter all of their club’s information.  The Access 4-H enrollment system saves MSUE and our county partners valuable time and money.

 Club leaders benefit as well. They have direct access to e-mail addresses, phone numbers and addresses of club members in case they need to be contacted. If a member moves or changes an e-mail address, the leader can easily change it. Leaders use the information to communicate quickly and completely with members.

 In Eaton County, Jennifer O’Neal, MSUE Extension educator, created a mini-computer lab in the MSUE county office conference room for Access 4-H training for club leaders. The leaders spent about two hours learning the system.

 According to a survey Jennifer took of the leaders after the training, 100 percent of attendees were comfortable or very comfortable entering a new member into the system. More than 90 percent felt comfortable or very comfortable about using Access 4-H overall after attending the training.

 At the State 4-H Office here on campus, Gloria Ellerhorst facilitates the use of the Access 4-H to generate reports that call for youth development data. In the past, MSUE 4-H personnel sent Gloria either a disk or an e-mail with a zip file attached that included the data. She then imported the data into the outdated Blue Ribbon software, county by county. With the Access 4-H youth development system, 4-H personnel and 4-H club leaders can enter the data themselves.

 “It’s live data that’s timely and accurate,” says Gloria. “And because it is Web-based, personnel are not confined to their office computers. They can do their work from remote locations.”

 Often Gloria assists others using Access 4-H by pulling up statistics that are used for various purposes. For example, Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications manager Michelle Lavra often asks Gloria to provide participation numbers either by county or program area. Michelle uses the information to inform others, particularly legislators, about the great work we do in 4-H. Gloria also reports data to the Michigan 4-H Foundation and to Julie Chapin who uses it to report to the United States Department of Agriculture. The accurate data reflects 4-H’s impact, influencing funders and national, state and local leadership. This past January, Michigan completed its first ES-237 enrollment report using this new system.

 If your district or county did Access 4-H training that was not mentioned here or it was mentioned and you’d like to talk about it, please add a comment on my blog. Or if you’d just like to talk about the system, feel free to comment.

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