Global connections: CALS team promotes international youth program partnerships

North Carolina youth from FFA, 4-H and N.C. State University’s Shelton Leadership Initiative plan to travel to Honduras this summer, thanks to the efforts of N.C. State leaders.

In August 2013, a team from N.C. State traveled to Honduras to investigate potential partnerships for North Carolina youth, said Dr. Marshall Stewart, special assistant to the dean and director of college strategy and leadership, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The delegation, led by Dr. John Sabella, director of CALS International Programs, included Stewart; Dr. George Wilson, horticulture sciences professor emeritus; Shannon McCollum, 4-H; Jason Davis, state FFA coordinator; former student and Fulbright student Alex Martin; and N.C. State sophomore and Shelton Scholar Will Pfitzner.

Sabella, a former professor of sustainable agriculture at the Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNA) in Catacamas, Honduras, oversees two CALS initiatives in Patuca, Olancho, Honduras, also supported by UNA.

“One of the things I believe is that there is a great need for international experiences for young people. This is part of making sure that young people have those experiences,” said Stewart, who has led both 4-H and FFA programs in North Carolina.

In the past, North Carolina 4-H had a relationship with a similar Japanese program called LABO. The proposed partnership in Honduras would be supported by CALS International Programs and N.C. State University.

Stewart said his goal was finding a site for an international program where youth could make a difference and learn from their experience. “We are looking for a place where we could have a long-term impact and experiences with depth,” he said.

FFA’s Jason Davis studies a crop of palm oil fruit.
FFA’s Jason Davis studies a crop of palm oil fruit.

CALS is involved with two on-going projects in Honduras. One effort involves extension work with growers, who are mainly women. Another project involves a farm at the Nueva Choluteca agricultural high school, which is used as a demonstration center for field days and other activities.

Last summer’s information-gathering trip included a packed agenda, Stewart said. Sabella introduced them to partners at John F. Kennedy Agriculture High School established by U.S. Agency for International Development; ESNACIFOR, the national forestry school, Zamarano University; and other rural primary and secondary education centers.

The team also met with USAID Mission Director James Watson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Director for Honduras Ana Gómez, and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Honduras representative Milton Flores, as well as other regional municipal leaders. The group even met the former president of Honduras.

McCollum of 4-H and Davis of FFA are developing a plan for a 10-day youth experience in Honduras for late July and August.

“We want to turn ‘learn by doing’ into a leadership experience for our young people,” McCollum said.

“We’re not going in with a set project,” said Davis of FFA. “We want youth to be engaged.”

The plan is to bring four state 4-H officers and six FFA officers, plus two 4-H youth chosen at-large. The 4-H youth will be high school juniors or seniors, college students or recent 4-H alumni; the FFA officers are mainly college students. In addition, two Shelton Leadership Scholars from N.C. State will participate. In December, 4-H accepted applications for the two at-large positions.

— Natalie Hampton

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