$2 million grant will allow 4-H to support more Hispanic youth

National 4-H Council has received a three-year, $2 million grant from the New York Life Foundation to empower more Hispanic youth to succeed in high school, graduate on time and pursue a college education. The funds will support the successful Juntos 4-H program developed by N.C. Cooperative Extension.

The grant will allow National 4-H to expand the Juntos program (pronounced “Who-n-toes”) into three new markets and enhance the curriculum to include financial literacy education. Founded in North Carolina in 2007, Juntos programs are now located in Iowa, Oklahoma and Oregon. The grant will support new programs in New York City, San Antonio, Texas, and one other city in the next two years.

Research shows that Hispanic youth are at greatest risk of dropping out of school between the ninth and 10th grades. Juntos means “Together” in Spanish, and the program brings together community partners, parents and schools to help Latino youth, many of whom are struggling in school.

Helping empower parents and encouraging involvement in their child’s education is essential to ensure sustainable success. The Juntos 4-H program equips Latino eighth graders for success in high school. As the youth go on to high school, the program continues to help them prepare for college and for the future. The program includes four key components:

  • One-on-one mentoring with a trained “Success Coach,” who focuses on youth’s academic progress;
  • Family workshops and regular family night activities focused on making academic success a realistic family goal;
  • After-school 4-H Club meetings, where youth lead hands-on projects and develop critical life skills; and
  • Summer experiences through 4-H camps, college visits and educational week-long academy at NC State University.

In North Carolina, the Juntos program serves nearly 600 Latino youth and parents across eight counties through grants. Juntos youth are engaged in Juntos 4-H clubs, service projects; science, engineering, technology and math projects; one-on-one success coaching, mentoring and leadership development.

More than 180 Latino youth and college-age mentors participate together in the week-long Juntos Summer Academy at NC State University and the Copa Unidos Soccer Tournamenteach year. Last year, hundreds of these Juntos youth also joined their parents to participate in the five- or six-week family workshop series, bimonthly family nights and the annual Día de la Familia “Family Day” at NC State University.

The national Juntos team is composed of about 70 paid staff across a number of states, and was founded and is led by Dr. Andrew Behnke, Cintia Aguilar and Diana Urieta. This team oversees the day-to-day operations, financial stability, training, and evaluation of the program.
“Our research shows the Juntos program has a significant positive influence on the lives of Latino youth in the program. Their grades are better, their attendance goes up, and they participate in fewer risky behaviors,” said Behnke, associate professor in NC State’s Department of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences.

“We are pleased that National 4-H Council and New York Life have adopted this program to empower Hispanic youth and their parents to reach their full potential all across America. We know that we certainly can do so much for these youth and families if we do it ‘Juntos,’” he said.

“By preparing youth to enter high school, the 4-H Juntos program supports students during the crucial middle school years, a key focus area for the New York Life Foundation. And research shows that Latino youth are in particular need of this support,” said Marlyn Torres, corporate vice president of the New York Life Foundation.

“By 2035, one-third of all American children and youth will be Latino – that means many more Hispanic youth who will need programs that are tailored to meet their unique youth development needs,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, President and CEO, National 4-H Council.

As part of this grant, National 4-H Council will work with New York Life to enhance the organization’s current “My Financial Future” financial literacy curriculum by adding a life insurance component.  More than 1,500 agents of the company’s Latino Market Initiative and members of the company’s Latino Employee Resource Group will be able to volunteer to teach these important concepts to students and families, in addition to engaging in other volunteer opportunities.

“We are very excited to be working with the New York Life Foundation and 4-H to provide mentorship and volunteerism opportunities to New York Life agents and employees who have a passion for giving back and for making a difference in their communities” said Hector Vilchis, corporate vice president of New York Life Insurance Co. and director of the company’s Latino Market Initiative.

-Compiled by N. Hampton

Other CALS News Center stories about the Juntos program:

Juntos summit unites Latino students in quest for higher education and rewarding careers, July 2012
Seventeen-year-old Arely Vasquez may not know what college she is going to attend or what she’d like to major in, but a couple things are for certain: She will be going. And she credits the Juntos program and its summer summit for keeping her motivated to do what it takes to get accepted at a top-tier school.

Juntos Summit brings Latino youth to campus, July 2011
This summer, more than 50 Latino youngsters took part in a week-long camp experience – the Juntos Youth Summer Summit – on the N.C. State University campus.