4-H Youth

Resilience Through Partnerships

Enhancing Food Security in Fairfield County

Food insecurity is not a new phenomenon, but the COVID-19 pandemic intensified the situation for many residents, including those in Fairfield County. Food banks and pantries across the state expanded their services to help the increasing numbers of food insecure families.

The pandemic introduced Heather Peracchio, an Assistant Extension Educator in our Fairfield County office with Lori Turco, the food pantry coordinator for Walnut Hill Community Church. They were introduced by Steve Harding and quickly formed a strong partnership to meet the communities’ needs. Heather works with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and with SNAP-Ed.

The number of families being served by the Walnut Hill Community Pantry increased because of the pandemic from 150 pre-pandemic to over 500 families. The food pantry was offered monthly before the pandemic and then shifted to weekly when the pandemic started. Staff serve three locations: the church in Bethel, Derby and New Milford. They serve over 1,500 families across the three locations from 22 towns. Some families come from as far as Stamford, Torrington, or Waterbury—there is a huge need for food resources.

The partnership between Extension and Walnut Hill Church started with Operation Community Impact— Heather wanted to help food pantries access the milk and dairy products donated by Guida’s and Cabot. Walnut Hill Church was happy to accept the donations and let Extension use their FEMA supplied 40-foot refrigerated trailer for deliveries. The Fairfield County Extension team connected food pantries throughout the area with dairy donations. Team members Edith Valiquette, Donna Liska, Linda Connelly, and the 4-H volunteers that delivered dairy were crucial to the project.

From that initial collaboration, the partnership has grown, and expanded the services offered to the community. “I connected Lori and the Walnut Hill Community Pantry to the Danbury Food Collaborative,” Heather says. “She has used that connection to establish a network of food distributions and Walnut Hill Church has become the main delivery site for all Danbury area USDA Farmers’ to Families Food Boxes. Lori also started a non-profit Community Food Rescue and is planning a Food Hub in Danbury.”

“The partnership with UConn Extension is phenomenal,” Lori says. “The only time we get dairy is in the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box or from Extension. The Extension team organized the dairy donations and facilitated funds. We were able to consistently provide milk for almost 500 families. We could buy more food with the money we have and be able to give fresh milk to everyone.”

group of people wearing masks and holding signsGreenhouse Wealth Management, LLC in Westport generously donated $1500 to the effort (photo below). Ryan Callas owns the company and is a UConn alumni. He heard about the initiative through an employee whose cousin lives next door to Heather—and Ryan was happy to get involved because of the UConn ties. The initial donation from Green Wealth Management prompted other donations that further supported Operation Community Impact in Fairfield County.

Extension’s contributions extend beyond facilitating and coordinating the dairy donations for food pantries. Our educators provide resources and connections for many areas of need. For example, Heather makes videos in English and Spanish for each USDA Food Box to help recipients use the items they are receiving.

Heather creates videos where she uses the ingredients in the food boxes in recipes. She then creates a QR code that links to the video to help recipients use the products. “Her videos have friendly, helpful hints and they are bilingual,” Lori says. “It helps make the food stretch further for our families. We put the QR code on our program materials each week for our families. The videos are an amazing tool that she’s created for us.”

Baby food was secured for families, and Heather also connects them to other resources, answers questions on everything from nutrition to expiration dates, and serves as an overall resource for the community.

“UConn Extension has helped us on multiple levels way beyond the dairy donations during Operation Community Impact,”

Lori says. “They gave us laundry cards last week for our families to get laundry done. Heather connected us with birthday bags for our residents too, these have everything a family needs to create a birthday for a family member. I can’t say enough about UConn Extension connecting us with the people we need. We’re extremely thankful for everything we’ve received.”

“Our work with Lori captures the essence of what Extension is,” Heather says. “UConn Extension helped the community, and we also fostered connections related to food security that are sustainable and will have long-term effects on the people living here.”

Article by Stacey Stearns

Supporting Families and Communities

Joyce Ann Hyde Foundation Sustains Food Donations

4-H is a family tradition for the Hyde’s of New London County. Brothers Harlan and Brandon Hyde were both active as youth, and now their children are members. They represent the slogan that 4-H grows true leaders—Brandon ’01 (CAHNR) has served on the alumni board for CAHNR and Harlan is an active 4-H volunteer.

“I have a fix-it personality, and we can’t fix COVID,” Harlan says. “Bonnie Burr, the assistant director for Extension called me in April about Operation Community Impact and the yogurt and sour cream delivery, and we started finding homes for it with the local food pantries. This project really changed my outlook on COVID. We were doing something for people and making a small contribution.”

Joyce Ann HydeThe Hyde’s started the Joyce Ann Hyde Food for Families Fund, a non-profit foundation, in honor of their late mother. The Foundation raises funds to support agriculture and community members in need.

“We’ve committed 100% of the funds from our non-profit to the purchase of food for the community,”

Brandon says. “There are three prongs to our non-profit. Our family has ties to agriculture and 4-H, and we want to be able to help feed families in need while directly supporting agriculture. It’s one of the goals in the mission of our non-profit. The third prong is using 4-H members to distribute the food, so they understand what it takes to give back.”

The Joyce Ann Hyde Foundation supported four milk deliveries and 10 produce deliveries to 27 food pantries in New London County to date. Over 30 families and 50 4-H youth members volunteer to move dairy and produce from central drop-off locations to the various food pantries. Brewster’s Orchards in Griswold donated apples and pears and the Foundation coordinated the logistics and distribution. Volunteers distributed the 7,500 pounds or produce throughout the fall of 2020. The Foundation purchased and distributed cheese in February. Sponsors donate refrigerated trucks and other logistics.

“We have an opportunity to impress on 4-Hers the givers heart,” Harlan says. “It’s also important to us that the whole thing started with farmers dumping milk, being limited to what they could ship to market—we want to increase demand. We buy fruit that might not be sold at market, and increase demand for those products, and we get the 4-H members involved in community service. We’re taking a holistic approach from farm to food pantry to table.”

“I’m really proud of the impact on the thousands of people we’re serving from all the food pantries,” Brandon says. “Just the three largest pantries in our network serve over 1,000 people.”

The Joyce Ann Hyde Foundation is growing the next generation of true leaders from the New London County 4-H program and positively impacting families and farm businesses throughout the county. The pandemic has upended the lives of thousands, and together we can help those in need and strengthen our communities.

Article by Stacey Stearns

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Alums Integral to Success of Operation Community Impact

Ice cream is one of life’s simple joys and something every age group enjoys. It’s also a rare treat for those relying on food pantries for their meals—and one they enjoyed in May through the efforts of our 4-H alumni and UConn Extension’s Operation Community Impact.

Meg (Eberly) Uricchio

Meg Uricchio stands in front of a case of Hood ice creamMeg Uricchio was a member and president of Hartford County’s Granby 4-H Club in her youth. “I started showing goats and transitioned to dairy. I also had photography, cooking, woodworking, and poultry projects.”

She got involved with the Merry Moo-ers 4-H Club while an undergraduate at UConn and still provides 4-H members with heifers to lease for their projects. Meg is an active volunteer for various Hartford County 4-H initiatives, including the fair and the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but the amount of responsibility that 4-H instills in you is very important for youth members,” Meg says. “4-H teaches you about putting someone other than yourself first. I loved the dedication that the volunteers have and am pleased to give back to the program.”

Meg works for HP Hood, Inc. and secured the donation of a tractor trailer load with 33 pallets of ice cream for Operation Community Impact. HP

Hood, Inc. has a long history of giving back to the communities surrounding its 11 plants nationwide.

Each donation for Operation Community Impact is a team effort— and the ice cream was no exception. “Jen Cushman, the Hartford County 4-H Educator, was instrumental in securing the donation,” Meg says. “Bill Davenport, the Litchfield County 4-H Educator, had a neighbor with the refrigerated trailer for 4-H to use. Jen took care of the logistics of where the donation would go, and I gathered the product and made sure it got loaded.”

The refrigerated trailer was donated by O & G Industries of Torrington. They provided a truck, freezer trailer, and two drivers and delivered the ice cream to all the counties in the state. Tulmeadow Farm in West Simsbury was the drop off location for Hartford County, where another 4-H and CAHNR alum stepped in to facilitate the process.

From Processor to Food Pantry: Don Tuller

Don Tuller ’77 (CAHNR), owner of Tulmeadow Farm, has been actively involved with 4-H and the agricultural community for his entire life. He was one of the volunteers staining the brand-new cabins at the Hartford County 4-H Camp in Marlborough, was later a camper and then a counselor. Don was also a member of the Hartford 4-H Fair Association and served in numerous leadership positions.

He understates his ongoing service to the community, including his role in the ice cream donation from HP Hood.

“4-H runs deep in our family,” Don says. “We were the transfer spot for the ice cream from H. P. Hood, and put it into my freezer, and then all the volunteers came and picked it up. We were willing to make our facility available and unload the ice cream with our forklift. We played a small role in the process and we’re happy to help.” Food pantries in six counties received ice cream donations.

The logistics of handling frozen products is not easy—and those 33 pallets of ice cream could have been ruined if the distribution process was not correct. “We’ve used our freezer space to support other food distribution efforts too, whenever it’s needed. We’ve had ongoing adventures with food donations to Foodshare over the years.”

Tulmeadow Farm sends sweet corn and extra vegetables to Foodshare and the Simsbury Food Bank every year too. Don’s record of service extends beyond his community, he recently retired as president of Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, where he served for 12 years in that role, and as a board member for the American Farm Bureau Federation. He currently serves as the president of the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities throughout the world and caused untold damages. Throughout it all, the UConn 4-H program has embraced its commitment to civic engagement by addressing food insecurity and assisting families and food pantries across the state. Our alumni and volunteers continue giving back to the program and making the best better.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Making the Best Better

4-H Members Civic Engagement Initiative Has Statewide Impact

girl pulling wagon of millkFood insecurity spiked across Connecticut because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UConn 4-H team led and coordinated Operation Community Impact, a grassroots effort to help local families with food insecurity issues intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort also addresses surplus milk issues that negatively impact dairy farms in the state due to the pandemic.

The Litchfield County 4-H program selected Operation Community Impact focusing on food insecurity in the county as their theme for the year in January of 2020—the pandemic made that theme a necessity—and they focused their efforts on dairy products and organized the first milk distribution in March, and then the effort expanded statewide through our 4-H network in April.

The Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) team and others are also instrumental to the success by facilitating connections with food pantries and volunteers. Businesses and partner organizations statewide have donated refrigeration, trucks, and space to facilitate donations.

4-H youth and volunteers facilitated donation and delivery of over 200,000 pounds of dairy products—and counting. They worked with 96 food pantries in 57 towns, serving over 10,710 families. Thousands of hours of volunteer time and services are integral to the success of Operation Community Impact—and many of those volunteers are alumnus of our 4-H program and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR).

“Over my seven years in 4-H I have been given many cool community service opportunities, but the dairy outreach community project is by far the most influential,” says Madeline Hall, a Litchfield County 4-H member. “It is a huge operation that really helps the community. It is a beautiful sight to see how utterly grateful the pantries and families receiving the milk are. I never knew how many families in Connecticut were in need. I’m so proud to be part of UConn 4-H.”

Madeline, her sister Olivia, and their mom Margaret have volunteered at all 12 donations to date. The Hall family has donated over 1,000 hours of their time to the effort. Margaret Hall has been a 4-H volunteer leader for eight years and leads the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club. She is also a co-leader and helped start the Grow Getters 4-H Horticulture Club this past year.

All eight counties received donations and had 4-H youth participate in the initiative. Litchfield and New London counties continued serving their food pantries through community initiatives that raised funds to purchase milk—and fruit in New London county—to support the local food pantries.

“It reassures me that we have a bright future ahead of us because we have these motivated, hard-working, intelligent, outgoing individuals that come up through the 4-H program,”

says Bill Davenport, the Litchfield County 4-H Educator. “We are excited to get surplus dairy products—in storage because of the pandemic—into the hands of families who are food insecure. Our actions increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk and dairy products out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”

Article by Stacey Stearns

2021 UConn 4-H Virtual Public Speaking Contest Results

4-H logo

The 2021 UConn 4-H Virtual Public Speaking Contest results are in!

UConn 4-H would like to thank all the presenters and judges for their time and commitment. All presenters did an amazing job displaying their public speaking skills while delivering outstanding presentations.

A champion and reserve champion were selected in each division.  All other youth who made it to the level 3 contest will be recognized as members of this year’s court of honor. The final results are as follows.

 

Jr. Speech Division

Champion – Owen Miller (Litchfield County)

Reserve Champion – Charlotte Behnke (Middlesex County)

Court of Honor – Samira Tanko (Fairfield County) & Amanda Sawyer (New London County)

 

Senior Speech Division

Champion – Bailey Hirschboeck (Windham County)

Reserve Champion – Maggie Leopold (Fairfield County)

Court of Honor – Harper Treschuk (Fairfield County) & Madeline Hall (Litchfield County)

 

Visual Presentations

Jr. Visual Presentation Division

Champion – Olivia Hatt (New London County)

Reserve Champion – Alyssa Behnke (Middlesex County)

Court of Honor – Lucy Foss (New London County) & Sloan D’Aquila (New London County)

 

Senior Visual Presentation Division

Champion – Caroline Holmberg (New London County)

Reserve Champion – Josie Thomson (Middlesex County) & Sarah Bourgoin (Litchfield County) Tie

Court of Honor – Olivia Hall (Litchfield County)

 

Congratulations!

New Unpeeled Game Helps Consumers Navigate the Grocery Store Aisle

Maya McCluen and the text Unpeeled behind her
We developed a new game to help shoppers like you learn about genetically modified food with our partners at New Mexico State University. UConn Extension is dedicated to providing educational resources to consumers and we would like your input! We would appreciate it if you could play the game (https://unpeeled.nmsu.edu/) and tell us what you think.
This link will take you to the game, after which there is a short survey. Our goal is to learn what you think about the game, including what you did and didn’t like. The game and survey should only take 20 minutes and your input will be used to improve the game. Play the game and take the survey at https://unpeeled.nmsu.edu/. Thank you for your help!

Highlights of Extension Report

Committed to a Sustainable Future

Highlights of Extension report cover with blue bars and photos of agriculture, health, and sustainabilityConnecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transfor­mative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programming moved to virtual environ­ments through online certificate programs, virtual field days, WebEx meetings, and YouTube videos. Our educators created and released 318 new videos on YouTube. These videos reached 305,200 people and had 39,501 viewers that watched 1,200 hours of Extension instruction.

One of every nine Connecticut residents struggled with food insecurity before COVID-19. For many individuals and families, challenges surrounding food inse­curity increased when the pandemic arrived and continued throughout 2020. The stress associated with food insecurity challenges one of the most basic human needs and deepens income and health disparities.

UConn Extension programs addressed the food insecurity challenges that our community members are facing due to COVID-19. Educators coordinated dairy foods donations to help address food inse­curity challenges—facilitating the donation of over 160,000 pounds of dairy products statewide.

Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities. We serve thousands of people every year. Our work is in every town and city of the state and the broader impacts make Connecticut a better place to live for all of us.

The human, environmental, and agricul­tural issues that we face change. The needs of our residents’ change. Our commitment to providing life transformative education remains steadfast.

Read the report at s.uconn.edu/extensionhighlights.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Larry Pennington  

Larry PenningtonUConn Extension is celebrating National Volunteer Week! Volunteers dedicate time to their communities, and we appreciate their contributions to make Extension programs successful. Dr. Larry Pennington is one of these people who embodies what a volunteer should be. He has volunteered his time for 23 years to UConn 4-H and his club, the First Town Veterinary Science 4-H Club. He enjoys volunteering his time and states, “just to know that I played a small role in their lives as they grew up, is so comforting and gives me great pride.”

Dr. Pennington started his 4-H club in 1998 with the goal of introducing young people to the veterinary science profession. He fills many roles as a volunteer working with youth. He is a leader, teacher, coordinator, and his favorite, a very proud advisor. He enjoys volunteering through 4-H because it has allowed him to stay connected with youth. Dr. Pennington is no stranger to  Extension’s 4-H program; he grew up participating in Ohio 4-H.

After two decades of service Dr. Pennington has truly made an impact on the lives of 4-Hers and the community. His4-H club members at a parade club has done numerous community service projects such as bringing pets to visit senior citizens in nursing homes and providing low-cost Rabies Vaccination Clinics locally. Dr. Pennington’s advice to Extension volunteers is to follow your heart. He also mentions the benefits of volunteering, including increased self-confidence and happiness. He states, “Your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity, as it has with me.”

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

June Zoppa Wins the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award

June ZoppaUConn 4-H has selected June Zoppa, a 46-year volunteer of the UConn 4-H Program as the Connecticut nominee for the National 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award. She won the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award and now moves on to compete nationally.

June Zoppa is an integral part of the 4-H community in Hartford County Connecticut. She is the only volunteer who serves or has served simultaneously on the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Board, Hartford County 4-H Fair Association, and the Hartford County 4-H Camp, Inc, Board of Trustees, while serving as a 4-H club leader. As new volunteers join the committees and boards, June has grown from their new ideas and ways of executing programming or operations. New and experienced volunteers speak about June’s ability to sensitively work through challenges and create innovative solutions that propel Hartford County 4-H towards reaching its goals and achieving its mission.

She is selfless in the time she gives to many aspects of the 4-H Program affecting thousands of youth on an annual basis. She is a go-to volunteer and her contributions to the Hartford County 4-H Program will continue to positively impact generations of UConn 4-H’ers for years to come.

June has served as a 4-H Fair Association Advisor since 2002. In this role, she mentors and empowers officers as they plan and implement the Hartford County 4-H Fair. June regularly serves as an Advisor for Fair Ad Hoc and subcommittees. As a member of the 4-H Advisory Board, June organized and procured items for the annual silent auction. June also served as the committee’s treasurer for 21 years and currently and serves as Committee Chair.

Her pragmatic approach allows the 4-Hers to take charge of the tasks at hand but is hands on in many of the Fair’s aspects up to and including spending the entire week prior to the fair ensuring its success.

The 4-H Camp Board of Trustees has benefitted from her expertise with stocking and promoting the camp store and annual Camp T-shirt design. June has sat on many Camp committees such as Staff Procurement, Maintenance and Special Events volunteering wherever she’s needed to make sure the 4-H campers have a safe and happy summer. In the over 30 years of her Camp Board involvement, June has attended almost every spring and fall work weekend ensuring that the over 1200+ campers and 200 teen counselors have a positive 4-H camp experience.

June’s 4-H Club “4-H Clovers” is in East Hartford. Zoppa Studios expanded their facilities building a ‘4-H Room’ where they host weekly club meetings and county committee meetings (Fair, Camp, and Advisory), as well as providing storage space while absorbing all expenses (utilities, storage, etc.). June follows UConn 4-H protocols to minimize risk and ensure the safety of all 4-H members.

June dedication extends to the local community. For example, her club assembles, bakes and delivers pies to local shelters for the Thanksgiving holiday. Numerous volunteers, who June recruited, have served for decades and continue their commitment to community service and employ the leadership skills they honed with June in their professional role.

June bleeds 4-H green and consistently demonstrates a professional attitude. June is a tireless advocate for all 4-Hers. She leads by example and never boasts or takes credit for her many accomplishments. She has a focus on doing what is right for youth, even if it requires more effort or energy. She is a well-respected volunteer throughout the county and state.

Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes “June’s life-long dedication to the UConn 4-H Program at a highly engaged level is highly commendable and has made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of 4-H members.” Fellow Hartford County 4-H Volunteer, Aimee Gilbert recognizes “June’s gentle spirit and strong dedication to the program help her connect with the youth members providing a positive experience. The youth members enjoy working with and learning from June as an advisor/mentor/leader.”

As the UConn 4-H nominee, June won the Northeast Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award and will now be competing nationally.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Rachael Manzer Wins the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award

Rachael ManzerRachael Manzer, a five-year volunteer with UConn’s Granby 4-H Club of Granby, a UConn 4-H Alum, and former NASA astronaut teacher, won the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year after being selected by UConn. Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes, “Rachael’s dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of 4-H youth has greatly expanded the STEM opportunities for 4-H Members and promoted UConn 4-H to new audiences.” Rachael Manzer exemplifies science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 4-H. She understands the importance and need for STEM and Agricultural Literacy, and she has increased opportunities for STEM learning by establishing the only 4-H VEX Robotics Program in New England. Rachael’s efforts have not only expanded 4-H programming throughout New England (CT and MA) members participate, but also increased the visibility of UConn 4-H on the national level as the team participated at the World Competition and the NASA Cubes in Space Competition.

This robotics program has its own “Cinderella” story – big dreams and the amazing efforts of many to make it a success. In 2015, she started 4-H Robotics with participants who had no idea how to build and program robots. After only one year, the VEX Robotics Project group expanded to include a competition team and a high school VEX Robotics Project group. The team qualified for the World VEX competitions three times! All of the teams have qualified this year for the Southern New England Championship and are hoping to yet again earn a spot at the World Championship.

Mrs. Manzer creates opportunities for 4-H’ers to go beyond the robotic competitions to share what 4-H STEM is all about. This program has done workshops for preservice teachers, led build your own robots at local libraries, and done demonstrations for the general public at the 5th largest fair in the United States.

Her enthusiasm for STEM is infectious and every 4-H’er feels important. Rachael dedicates a large amount of time to 4-H throughout the year teaching 4-H’ers how to think, not what to think, and that you learn by failure. She focuses on workforce readiness skills in communication, listening, time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Rachael regularly works with the youth on public speaking, marketing, and financial operations in order to prepare the members for the various roles they encounter as a team member. They work closely with the youth in planning and implementing the building of the robot, public speaking presentations, fundraising and various community service demonstrations with the robot. The 4-H youth in her project group shared, “Mrs. Manzer is extremely dedicated to the robotics team and its members. She is constantly cheering for us, both inside of the robotics environment and out. Her encouragement has impacted us greatly.” She is growing future leaders in 4-H, STEM, and Agriculture.

Rachael Manzer’s innovation shined as she was able to keep the 4-H robotics program going during COVID-19 following safety protocols. For many of the 4-H’ers, 4-H Robotics was the only interaction with others they had outside the home.

Rachael also led an additional project group for youth who were interested in developing a science experiment to send into space. Three projects were submitted by Granby 4-H and all were selected to fly into space, in June 2018. These projects provided youth with the opportunity to work as a team, design experiments, apply scientific knowledge, and deliver a public presentation at NASA. Rachael’s impact on programming and youth is literally out of this world!

Rachael Manzer, a 4-H alumna of the Litchfield County 4-H Club, grew up showing beef cattle. 4-H gave so much to her, her goal was to give back to the organization. As Mrs. Manzer stated, “4-H helped me develop a set of skills like; teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, dependability, leadership which I use every day in my career.” Rachael Manzer is a nationally awarded educator. Currently she is the STEM Coach for Winchester Public Schools. Mrs. Manzer has experience as an educator working in both suburban and urban schools in Connecticut. She also worked in the education department at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. In that role, she worked with scientists, astronauts and engineers delivering the latest breakthroughs in STEM to teachers and students across the United States.

Rachael competed against nominees from the other northeast states for the Northeast Volunteer of the Year Award. She is moving forward for consideration as the National Volunteer of the Year Award.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, civic engagement, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.