Well Connected Communities Welcomes New Youth Leaders to Steering Committee

The Well Connected Communities initiative relies on input from a national Steering Committee to ensure that strategies and tactics utilized by the initiative align with best practices of related fields. The Steering Committee includes representatives of various organizations who share a commitment to health equity, local action, youth voice, and advancing the community engagement mission of the nation’s land grant universities. Members are thought leaders in the organizations they represent and offer advice to initiative leadership at various times throughout the year.  Members of the steering committee are listed here.

In 2021, Nathan Grine, Sophia Rodriguez, Paris Woods, and Mayyadah Zagelow, have joined the steering committee as youth members.

“Because the decisions that we make today will have a significant impact on the type of world that the young people will live in as adults,” says Roger Rennekamp, the Health Director with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), “it is fitting and proper that they are involved in making those decisions.”

Meet these youth and read their bios below.

Nathan Grine | Ohio State University
National 4-H Council Young Alumni Advisory Committee Member

Nathan Grine was involved in the Ohio 4-H program for 10 years as a member and continues to give back as a young alumnus. He is currently a first-year graduate student pursuing a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of Maryland. Following graduation, Nathan would like to work in higher education advancement and fundraising. While in 4-H, he was heavily involved in leadership programming and youth advocacy efforts at both the state and national level. Nathan is continually invested in elevating all voices and perspectives while creating equitable experiences that further promote youth development.

Sophia Rodriguez | University of Georgia
National 4-H Council Young Alumni Advisory Committee Member

Sophia Rodriguez has been involved in 4-H in Georgia for 10 years. She is a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences, International Affairs, and minoring in Spanish. Post-graduation, Sophia aspires to do research for an education policy firm and contribute to bettering the United States’ education system. As a 4-H’er, she focused on programs highlighting Communications, the Arts, and Healthy Living, and currently, Sophia finds joy in cultivating genuine support systems that champion inclusivity and advocate for others.

Paris Woods | James Madison University
National 4-H Council Young Alumni Advisory Committee Member

Paris Woods has been involved in 4-H in Virginia for 12 years. She is a Senior at James Madison University, majoring in Justice Studies with a concentration in Social Justice and Interventions, with minors in Political Science and Nonprofit Studies. Post-Graduation, Paris hopes to receive her masters in International Relations and Diplomacy to hopefully work for an International Human Rights organization, or as a United States Diplomat. As a 4-Her, Paris was heavily involved in 4-H Summer Camps, Teen Development Programs, and served on the Virginia 4-H State Cabinet for two years. She has an ever-growing passion for youth and story-telling with ambitions to increase opportunities for intentional service.

Mayyadah Zagelow | Washington State University | Washington
2021 Healthy Living Youth in Action Award Winner

At a young age, Mayyadah Zagelow struggled with her mental health through anxiety and selective mutism, unable to express her thoughts at school and in other environments. Combined with bullying at school by those she had once considered friends, Mayyadah felt isolated and betrayed. That’s when she joined 4-H, and her journey to overcoming anxiety began. Through 4-H, Mayyadah learned to turn difficult experiences into empowering opportunities as she learned to speak up and speak out for herself and for others who feel voiceless.   

Passionate about LGBTQ+ rights and addressing social inequities, Mayyadah is a founding member of a grassroots youth movement in Washington state called the Teen Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Through this taskforce, Mayyadah is working with fellow 4-H’ers to educate adults and teens alike through workshops and grassroots efforts about gender identities, expression, orientation and biological sex, as well as the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community in hopes of creating a world of inclusion for all 4-H youth. The task force also provides a safe space and healthy environment for youth to share their stories. Using teamwork strategies and communication skills, Mayyadah seeks to lift up the varied stories of 4-H’s diverse youth. Mayyadah recently graduated from high school and is currently attending Central Washington University.  

Scott County EMPOWER Attend 2021 National 4-H Summit for Healthy Living

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Scott County EMPOWER youth leaders represented Indiana at the National 4-H Summit for Healthy Living on February 14, 2021. More than 560 participants attended this virtual conference from 34 states, the U.S. Territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and three military installations, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Scott County is one of the 43 communities engaged in the Well Connected Communities (WCC). WCC is a national health and well-being initiative of the Cooperative Extension System—in partnership with National 4-H Council and support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)—that is working to ensure that life-long health and well-being are within everyone’s reach. Scott County’s youth coalition, Scott County EMPOWER, was represented at the summit by Nick Henderson and Ella Rahe of Austin High School and Johnathon Perkinson and Logan Weilbaker of Scottsburg High School. Henderson, Perkinson, Rahe, and Weilbaker presented on Youth as Targets of the Alcohol and Tobacco Industries’ Advertising. Their group participated in two separate sessions during the summit and interacted with the attendees by answering questions and providing examples of youth activities for building resilience. Their work was also a part of the virtual Summit Showcase, which highlighted successful youth programs and resources to help other communities develop health programs. 

Ella Rahe remarked that she felt the sessions she presented in helped attendees understand what’s going on in our world; how youth overlook how companies fool us in false advertising and how youth are targeted in these advertisements.

Johnathan Perkinson commented that It was a great experience to be able to speak in front of people from across the United States about healthy living from a youth’s perspective. “It was interesting to see how our presentation influenced the youth to ask questions about what EMPOWER is doing in order to help them learn about ways to influence the youth in their own communities in a positive and beneficial way.” 

JoAnne Leatherman, WCC Youth and Adult Volunteer Lead, praised the Scott County EMPOWER youth. “Scott County EMPOWER is a fine example of what youth leadership can do to implement positive health changes in their community, and they have been working effectively despite the effects of COVID shutdowns,” Leatherman said. “To learn more about the youth coalition’s work, you can watch their remarkable videos about building youth resilience at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFHwSNs9zKp1_Ueqgb8BDOQ/videos.”  

Scott County EMPOWER is a youth-driven coalition that includes participation from both Scott County school districts. Founded by Scott County youth who want to improve their community’s prevention work, they believe that healthy, safe, drug-free lives can be encouraged with the right tools. They are working with their local adult coalition CEASe (Coalition to Eliminate the Abuse of Substances). Learn more about their collaborative work at https://sccease.org/empower/ or http://thrivinginscottcounty.com

University of Maryland Eastern Shore WCC team honored by Princess Anne Town Commissioners

On Monday, February 1, 2021, The Princess Anne Town Commissioners presented to  the University of Maryland Eastern Shore-Well Connected Communities (UMES -WCC) team, a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of the UMES-WCC team‘s dedication and diligence in Community Service to the Town of Princess Anne, MD.

 “On behalf of the UMES-WCC team,  I would like to thank you and the Princess Anne Town Commissioners for this honor,” said Dr. Virginie Zoumenou, who leads UMES-WCC. “Being honored with this Certificate of Appreciation leaves no doubt that the accomplishments of the UMES-WCC in Somerset County and beyond are recognized and valued by the community members.” She concluded by saying, “We look forward to more collaborative work to ensure an engaged and healthy community in the Tri-County area of the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and beyond.”

West Virginia Snowflake Conference

Youth team from two West Virginia communities who attended the 2020 National Healthy Living Summit planned and coordinated a conference (Snowflake Conference) to address mental health as a health inequity in their communities.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on events and gatherings, youth pivoted their planning and logistics to a virtual platform. On October 10, 2020, 19 youth and 11 adults attended the Snowflake conference to address mental health as a health disparity in their communities. Youth participants agreed that as a result of successfully implementing this conference, they are confident in their abilities to plan and execute an idea to drive community change.

The impact of this conference is demonstrated in opportunities youth participants see for disseminating the project as a pilot or small-scale model for collaborative leadership and placed-based change for rural communities. Three counties have expressed interest in replicating this concept in their communities and ideas generated by this youth-led virtual conference have inspired state-level Extension committees on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging to begin making plans for a similar youth-led statewide summit.

Youth of Solutions Fellowship Program

Well-Being and Equity in the World invite applicants to the Youth of Solutions Fellowship Program, Leading for Wellbeing and Racial Equity.

What is it?

This is a 1-year program that offers students that are interested in hands-on learning to assess and improve population and community health and well-being across sectors with a heavy focus on racism and systemic factors that contribute to inequity. Fellows for this program will be offered training and coaching in applying leading from within skills, leading together skills, and leading for equitable outcomes from the WE in the World team. 

Why join?

As a part of the program, Fellows will have the opportunity to work with youth and other community members for social transformation in areas they are passionate about. They will join a global network of young minds and hearts working to lead together for equity and well-being while looking at their own local conditions to apply their learning.

How to apply? Please see here for a brief application form, application closes December 19, 2020 for the January Cohort. For further information please feel free to contact us at louisa.mancey@weintheworld.org.

Opportunity4All Forum: Access, Equity & Mobility for America’s Youth

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Millions of young people face a widening opportunity gap in education, mental health and social inequities, which threaten their potential and the growth of our communities. As our country continues to address how youth will or will not be engaged in their school ecosystem over the coming year, this conversation has never been more critical.

We invite you to watch the full recording of the Opporunity4All Forum, which was hosted by 4-H, America’s largest youth development organization, on August 5, 2020. The forum brought together young people and adults for a powerful discussion around creating opportunity for all youth.


4-H Interview with Dr. Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

In this 4 for 4 interview, National 4-H Council President & CEO Jennifer Sirangelo is joined by Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for a virtual discussion on youth leadership and community impact.

The concept for 4 for 4 Talks is simple: using video conferencing, we’ll call you and ask 4 questions in 4 minutes that focus on the journey you’ve taken in life, your career, and the path forward you see for young people navigating the world ahead. Through this lens we may talk about societal issues you think are most impacting young people, our national surveys on physical and mental health, our current health and social climate, and solutions to creating a brighter future for America’s youth. Each 4 for 4 is casual and brief by design, but powerful in the story it can tell and those it can influence.

HuffPost: The First Data On COVID-19 And Teens’ Mental Health Is Here — And It’s Not Good

As COVID-19 social distancing measures have worn on, a lot has been written about how younger children are coping.

Less has been said about teenagers, who missed out on big milestones. (Final semesters! Final sports seasons! Graduation! Prom!) And who have also been kept from doing what is basically their full-time job: separating from their families, exploring the world and beginning to figure out who they are. Read more…