Daniel, a middle school student, the attraction was the chance to
learn about TV and video production. Environmental studies and the
chance to work on a community restoration project appealed to Devon,
a high school student. Learning about computers and the world of
business was the draw for Hien who is now a student at WSU in Pullman.
these and dozens of other teenagers in Thurston County the 4-H Teen-Works
program is an opportunity for them to pursue their personal interests,
and at the same time get a glimpse of the world of career and community
that lies ahead of them.
to Mike Holroyd, WSU Thurston County Extension chair and 4-H Teen-Works
director, the 4-H workforce preparation program has proven extremely
popular in its first three years.
"We launched the program in fall 2001 with only two class choices:
computer technology and video production," Holroyd said. "We started
in November with 12 kids, and by February, enrollment doubled. Within
a year enrollment exceeded our capacity when 65 kids had signed
Interest is so high that Teen-Works has adopted a semester system
to spread the load for the volunteer instructors and keep the class
"We try to keep enrollment to about 40 kids per semester," Holroyd
said. "But, it's hard to say 'no' when the kids want to participate."
program is available free of charge to teens aged 13 to 18 who live,
attend school, and work in Thurston County. Enrollees for this spring's
semester had eight career exploration tracks from which to choose.
Volunteers lead the classes, bringing their expertise to the classroom.
"One of the pleasant surprises has been both our success in drawing
excellent volunteers, and their abilities to work with the kids,"
keeping with its workforce preparation mission, Teen-Works is run
like a business. Participants are asked to think of themselves as
members, stockholders, and employees. As such, they agree to meet
certain requirements and a set of expectations.
County 4-H Teen-Works members Patrick Kelly and Jacob Boldt
explore the torpedo room of the submarine U.S.S.Blueback.
teens agree to fully participate in one or more of the career exploration
tracks, to attend a monthly "company meeting" of all Teen-Works
members, complete at least one service learning project, and participate
in at least one educational field trip.
Members are expected to show up on time for meetings and events,
expected to learn, have a positive attitude, and be cooperative
even has its own headquarters, a classroom space it leases adjacent
to the Thurston County Extension office.
Lining the walls are six computers and peripherals, all wirelessly networked. The computers are products of Teen-Works, assembled by participants in the computer technology track from components donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
|Thurston County 4-H Teen-Works member Son Pham prepares for video shoot with volunteer instructor Paul Paluskas.
Members of the TV and video production track meet at the studios
of Thurston County TV, the county's government access channel.
Each semester the members produce a 30-minute video on topics
relevant to teens in the county and the final videos are aired
The environmental studies track offers its members the unique
opportunity to participate in a major environmental restoration
project. They are restoring and maintaining a natural prairie
garden on the site of the former county landfill at Hawk's Prairie
east of Olympia.
Piper, an Americorps volunteer assigned to Thurston County Extension,
coordinates the environmental studies track. She says the Closed
Loop Prairie restoration is a particularly gratifying project
for Teen-Works members and for her.
a real community project with obvious community benefits," she
said. "It's amazing to be at this beautiful natural site and realize
that we've helped transform it from a garbage dump."
the program is currently only available in Thurston County, Holroyd
believes it provides an excellent model for other 4-H programs.
"I've had calls from other counties, and from as far away as Texas,
asking for help and training to set up similar programs," he said.
Holroyd will be sharing the Teen-Works story with professionals
from across the country on May 13 at the national Children, Youth,
and Families at Risk conference in Seattle.