Tag Archives: youth development

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, June 9, 2014

Nancy Wells, associate professor of design and environmental analysis, speaks at the event June 3. Photo by Lindsay France/University Photography

Nancy Wells, associate professor of design and environmental analysis, speaks at the event June 3. Photo by Lindsay France/University Photography

Do school gardens influence kids’ diet and physical activity? Does hip-hop belong in the classroom? How can teens use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media responsibly?

Cornell faculty experts addressed these and other questions for nearly 50 Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) county leaders, 4-H educators and community partners at the fourth annual Youth Development Research Update, June 3-4 in Ithaca. Sponsored by the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) in the College of Human Ecology, the event joined researchers and practitioners from across New York state to discuss new findings, develop partnerships and identify areas for further research.

“The research update informs practitioners about research-based knowledge they can draw on in their work,” said professor of human development Stephen Hamilton, who co-hosted the event with Jutta Dotterweich, training and technical assistance coordinator for the BCTR’s ACT for Youth Project. “It fosters dialogue that enables researchers to understand what is most important and most useful to practitioners and ultimately for both to find common ground for collaboration.”

To open the conference, Robert Sternberg, professor of human development, shared his current work on ethics. Doing right, he said, ought to be easy, but “it’s actually quite hard.” He presented his theory of eight steps to ethical behavior, progressing from dilemma recognition to action. “At every step there’s the option to check out, any one of which can lead to a failure to act.” Sternberg advised that schools and youth programs integrate ethics into a range of subject matters rather than treating them separately.

Environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, associate professor of design and environmental analysis, detailed her school gardens research, which found that gardens prompted grade-school children to be more physically active in classes and at home.

To show the hazards of teaching hip-hop in schools, Travis Gosa, assistant professor of Africana studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, described how a Florida middle school teacher was suspended this year for asking her students to evaluate the literary devices used in a violent, sexually explicit rap song. Despite this, Gosa, who is writing a book on hip-hop-based education, said such music and culture can be taught responsibly, “in a way that reflects an understanding of the history and politics of hip-hop and its impression on young people.”

Social media presents another minefield for young people, said Natalya Bazarava, assistant professor of communication. Teens often share intimate information without weighing the consequences, her studies have found, and she advised teaching youth about the Internet’s wide and lasting reach.

To conclude, Lorraine Maxwell, associate professor of design and environmental analysis, shared her work on children’s perception of their school environment and its effect on their academic achievement and well-being. Her work found a troubling chain reaction: when students rate the quality of their school facilities poorly, it lowers their perception of the school social climate, leading to decreased attendance and subpar academic performance.

For Tim Davis, 4-H youth development extension issues leader for CCE Ontario County, the conference helps to spark connections with faculty members seeking to test their ideas in the field. At last year’s event, he met Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development; together they launched a multiyear study of writing interventions for teen girls. He is pursuing research partnerships with three other Cornell professors.

“Often, we are eager to work with professors, and they want to run research in community settings, but that can’t happen without first building a relationship with the faculty member,” Davis said. “This research update gets us talking about the possibilities.”

Ted Boscia is director of communications and media for the College of Human Ecology.

Related Links:
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research

By Karene Booker

Hamilton

Hamilton

Mentoring relationships are a powerful tool for helping young people find their way - to higher education, good jobs and other opportunities - especially for youth with fewer family resources. However, we know little about the most common form, natural mentoring,  in which adults act as mentors outside of the context of a program set up for that purpose. Now, a new project, funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, aims to help close this knowledge gap.“Fostering natural mentoring is a promising approach to increasing mentoring for the youth who need it most,” said principal investigator Stephen Hamilton, professor of human development and associate director for youth development at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

Through survey research, the project will shed light on the roles mentors play for youth (supporting, modeling, connecting, and guiding), how these roles are linked to the background and outcomes of the youth, and how to foster natural mentoring, Hamilton said.

The $25,000 project got underway in December 2013 and will continue through June 2014.  Mary Agnes Hamilton, senior research associate at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and David DuBois at the University of Illinois at Chicago, are Co-PIs on the project. The research will involve youth from two schools in California - High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego and a YouthBuild program in Lennox.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

Related Information

By Karene Booker

Deana Blansky leading a session for young adolescents on health and fitness - Mark Vorreuter

Deana Blansky leading a session for young adolescents on health and fitness - Mark Vorreuter

Last year Deanna Blansky ’16 jumped into a new initiative to translate faculty research into hands-on activities for teaching middle-school youth about the brain, health, and science. The initiative aims to develop a six-hour 4-H STEM curriculum on health and the brain and is led by Valerie Reyna, professor and director of the Human Neuroscience Institute in the Department of Human Development, and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility.

To start, Blansky, a Human Biology, Health, and Society major, developed two modules, one on nutrition and fitness and another on breast cancer genetics, based on Reyna’s ongoing research.  She piloted these modules with middle school campers at Bristol Hills 4-H Camp in Canandaigua, New York as part of her summer Cornell Cooperative Extension internship. Both modules combined aspects of health and neuroscience, while providing an interactive learning experience for the campers.

The campers particularly liked the hands-on lessons, such as competing in the nutritional breakfast cook-off and creating model brains they could keep, Blansky said. They had fun comparing breakfast ideas and seemed surprised by how easy it was to create their own healthy meals. They were eager to take their ideas back home, she said.

The combination of outreach through teaching at summer camp and empirical neuroscience research was really rewarding, Blansky concluded. What she learned about the research process, curriculum development and lesson planning for different age groups will come in handy - she is planning on entering the field of medicine and public health, and hopes to incorporate community health into her future career.

This year, Noah Rubin ’16 will be refining the two modules and developing new segments. Rubin is majoring in Policy Analysis and Management and minoring in Computer Science and Math. He joined Reyna’s Laboratory of Rational Decision Making propelled by an interest in human behavior and the neuroscience behind it. An interest, he says, that was sparked in high school after reading a story about a man who had developed software that predicted investing behavior based on reactions to current events.

The new and revised modules will be piloted with youth this summer, with the plan of eventually making them more broadly available.

By Olivia M. Hall
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, September 17, 2013

From left, research assistants Meredith Moser '15, Natasha Herrick '15 and Leticia Vasquez '15 at Camp Bristol Hills, where they studied teen transitions this past summer - Mark Vorreuter

Summer camp is often about archery, swimming and singing around the fire. But this past summer, Natasha Herrick ’15, Leticia Vasquez ’15 and Meredith Moser ’15 were in for a different kind of camp adventure – their first academic research study.

Working with Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, the three served as research assistants for a pilot study to test expressive writing interventions with adolescent girls at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills in Canandaigua, N.Y.

The project, funded partly by Cornell’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, formed when Tim Davis, 4-H youth development program leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Ontario County, discussed possible collaborations at the residential summer camp with Mendle.

“Everybody knows that puberty is rough on kids, as relationships with parents and peers are changing,” Mendle said. “Our lab, like a lot of others interested in puberty, tends to focus on the consequences of puberty – which can include depression, anxiety, externalizing or ‘acting out’ behaviors, poor self-esteem and body dissatisfaction. In this project we wanted to explore what happens if we intervene before teens get to that point.”

Mendle’s research assistants lived at Bristol Hills and used free slushies to recruit 45 girls, ages 11 to 13. (Boys will be included in a future study.) During six, weeklong camp sessions, the RAs gathered the girls after lunch on four days for an exercise in expressive writing, which Mendle describes as “a brief, focused intervention, in which people write about times of change in their lives.”

After filling out a standard psychological questionnaire on the first day, the girls spent 20 minutes daily writing about their relationships with their families, friends and the changes taking place in their own bodies

Though the data have yet to be fully analyzed – Mendle is planning to send out a follow-up questionnaire in a few months – the research partners are pleased with the outcomes to date of this first-time collaboration.

“4-H camps put a real emphasis on how the camp experience will develop the whole child,” said Davis. “This year we were really able to pilot how we can work with faculty to do research at the camp while greatly benefiting our campers.”

Mendle hopes to use the pilot data to write a grant proposal that will expand the study to include a control group and show more clearly how the writing intervention provides positive benefits to adolescents.

The undergraduate assistants, for their part, found their interest in working with adolescents confirmed. “This research helped to further convince me that kids in this age range and young adults are the focus I’d like to pursue later in life if I ever get my own private practice as a therapist,” said Vasquez.

Herrick, Moser and Vasquez assisted with the study as part of the CCE Summer Internship Program, which provides opportunities for Human Ecology and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students to support research and outreach projects in communities around the state. The RAs also assisted in a separate study on social exclusion among adolescents, led by Vivian Zayas, Cornell associate professor of psychology.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, they and other CCE summer interns will present posters about their work at a reception, 5-6:30 p.m., in the Statler Ballroom.

Olivia M. Hall is a freelance writer.

By Rebecca Harrison
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 1, 2013

“Life is not a straight line,” as a former NFL lineman-turned-engineering professor will be the first to admit regarding the direction his career took – similar to many of his students, and even his own daughter.

Matt Miller, professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and his daughter, Chaney Miller ’14, a Cornell civil engineering major, addressed prospective science and engineering students in a film for a seminar on “Thinking Like a Scientist,” one of many workshops held during this year’s annual 4-H Career Explorations Conference, June 25-27. The conference hosted 600 high school students and chaperones from 45 New York counties.

Growing up, Chaney Miller shared a similar quality to many engineering students: She always liked building things. Like many students, though, her path changed in high school. “I got really involved in Spanish,” she said. “I had a really great teacher. She really got me fired up on languages, so that kind of stemmed into Mandarin. It was something that I really liked and wanted to pursue at Cornell.”

Said Matt Miller: “After she was admitted [to Cornell], she had decided to reinvestigate the possibility of being an engineer.”

During her first semester, Chaney Miller said she “just kind of got body slammed by a few of the exams.” Reminded by her father that “This is the way it goes; this is the process,” she persevered.

Charlotte Sweeney ’04, M.A. ’08, Ph.D. ‘13, discussed with students at the workshop how Chaney Miller’s success in languages led to an aptitude for engineering and how this could apply to a many career decisions. As one student observed: “We don’t think of languages as symbols, but a sentence is a little bit like an equation. I don’t think her leap was that giant from Mandarin, especially to engineering.”

Through exploring many Cornell programs, Chase Thomas, a junior at Oneonta High School and aspiring engineer, “saw that Cornell was a beautiful campus with smart and engaging teachers, where students can learn literally anything. They even have a particle accelerator under the campus!”

According to conference coordinator Nancy Schaff, there is a tradition of 4-H members coming to Cornell in June dating to 1922. “Lots of kids say it has made a difference in their college decisions and ultimately their career,” Schaff said. “Students stay in the dorms, eat in the dining hall and learn what college is like.”

This year, 10th to 12th grade students had an opportunity to explore nearly 20 programs ranging from permaculture to computer science, while eighth and ninth graders participated in the “University U” program, a broader sample of career-oriented workshops.

At the end of the conference, Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development, advised students: “… understand that you’re on a pathway. It’s hard for us to think of it like this. Life feels like a photograph looking at you in one point in time. But, you’re a movie. It’s dynamic; you’re moving. You got here for a reason. You came to career explorations for a reason. Why? Think about that.”

Rebecca Harrison ’14 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, August 8, 2012.
Savin-Williams

Savin-Williams

Rieger

Regardless of their sexual orientation, teens who do not fit behavioral norms for their gender are not as happy as their gender-conforming peers, finds a new Cornell study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (41:611-621).

The findings suggest it may be the effects of not conforming to gender stereotypes, rather than sexual orientation, that drive the increased mental health risks found among non-heterosexual youth. Although being a feminine boy or a masculine girl is often related to sexual orientation, until now, the separate effects of gender expression and sexuality on mental health had not been untangled.

"We need to rethink how sexual orientation relates to health. Too much emphasis has been put on a non-heterosexual orientation itself being detrimental," said Gerulf Rieger, lead author and Cornell postdoctoral associate, who conducted the study with Ritch C. Savin-Williams, professor of human development and director of the Sex and Gender Lab at Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

For their research, Rieger and Savin-Williams analyzed data from 475 rural high school students who participated in a survey about their sexual orientation, preference for male-typical or female-typical activities, and psychological well-being.

The researchers found that the non-heterosexual youth in the study were more likely to violate gender norms for behavior, feelings, activities and interests, but so did some heterosexual youth. The effect of being a feminine boy or a masculine girl was similar regardless of sexual orientation -- both childhood and adolescent gender nonconformity were negatively linked to well-being. The effects on mental health, however, were small, which the researchers say may explain why most same-sex oriented individuals experience few mental health problems.

"Perhaps some adolescents are harassed not so much because they are gay," said Savin-Williams, "but because they violate 'acceptable' ways of acting. If so, sexism may be a more pervasive problem among youth than homophobia."

This research was supported by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station federal formula funds, received from the National Institutes for Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Stephen Hamilton

Hamilton

Over the past two decades mentoring programs have become a centerpiece of youth development. One source of their attraction is that many adults think fondly of mentors they had and are pleased to be able to “pay it forward.” Another is that it sounds like an easy and inexpensive way to open new opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth. While the first is a sound rationale, the second, sadly, is not completely true.

Mentoring programs require substantial investments to work well. Mentoring stands out among youth development programs and practices for the number and depth of evaluations that have been conducted, enough to yield two formal “metaanalyses,” or statistical syntheses of multiple evaluations. (The most recent is by DuBois, Portillo, Rhodes, Silverthorn, & Valentine, 2011.) These have demonstrated consistent positive effects across a wide range of youth development outcomes. The effect sizes are modest, as is true for nearly all program evaluations, but the range of impact is impressive. DuBois and his colleagues (2011, Figure 2) found positive effects on the following broad categories of outcomes: attitudinal/motivational; social/relational; psychological/emotional; conduct problems; academic/school; and physical health.

Mentoring programs exist because the young people who most need mentors are least likely to have them. One of the ways in which parents pass advantages on to their children is by means of their “social capital,” the personal connections that help them achieve their goals. Children whose parents are better educated and better paid are naturally introduced to other adults whose knowledge and social positions make them helpful advisors and advocates. Children whose parents lack those advantages themselves also have fewer opportunities to get to know adults who can help them in these ways.

Consider a 13-year old girl who thinks she might like to become an engineer. A father who is a lawyer probably knows some engineers from his college class, his professional life, church, his fitness club, or the neighborhood. And he can easily ask an engineer acquaintance to talk with his daughter about the work and the kind of education it takes. A girl of the same age growing up in a neighborhood where many people are unemployed and none are professionals may have no idea what an engineer is or does and, if she has, no access to one or to anyone else who can mentor her about a career path. This is precisely the kind of inequality that mentoring programs are designed to overcome.

But it is important to realize that mentoring programs were invented to create and maintain relationships between young people and adults outside the family that in most cases occur naturally, without benefit of a program. When asked about adults outside the family who were important to them in their youth, few adults name a program mentor; they identify instead a teacher who took a special interest in them, a coach, a religious leader, a 4-H club leader. I have met several 4-H educators who have told me they chose their career because of their admiration for a 4-H agent they knew when they were young, which is testimony to mentoring. “Natural” or “informal” mentoring, meaning mentoring outside of a mentoring program, has not been well studied but two studies in particular have yielded hints about its potential. Erikson, McDonald, and Elder (2009) found that disadvantaged youth who had a mentor at school were nearly as likely to enroll in college as their advantaged classmates. McDonald and Lambert (2011) analyzed the data from the same source, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), and found that mentored youth also got better jobs after high school.

One limitation of mentoring programs is that simply calling someone a mentor does not make him/her one. An adult is only a young person’s mentor when the young person regards her or him as a mentor. One source of power in natural mentoring, I suspect, is that mentor and mentee choose one other. No matchmaker is involved. When mentoring programs work it is because the matchmaking worked (as it can in marriages). But failed matches reduce the impact of mentoring programs because their results (which can be negative) are averaged in with the effects of matches that worked.

While it is entirely appropriate that 4-H sponsor mentoring programs (as we do with support from the U. S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention), most of the mentoring 4-Hers receive is not formally designated as such; it happens in the context of the regular 4-H program. Recognition of this natural phenomenon can also lead to its cultivation. Mary Agnes Hamilton and I (Hamilton & Hamilton, 2004) have made the case that developmentally beneficial mentoring relationships are likely to arise when youth and adults jointly engage in goal-directed activities. 4-H projects fit that bill. We have also observed that young people are attracted to adults who convey enthusiasm and are skilled, just the kinds of adults who are likely to participate in 4-H activities, whether as club leaders or short-term advisors for special activities.

What would we do differently if we took seriously the idea of 4-H as a context for natural mentoring? I don’t know. I have some ideas, but my motivation for writing this is to find out what educators think. Volunteers will have some good ideas too. Here are some thoughts in the form of assertions that require refinement and testing.

  • Consider whether what makes the biggest impact on youth development in 4-H may not be the content or the activity but the relationships.
  • Encourage 4-H leaders to be open to forming relationships that extend beyond group activities. Adults may intentionally limit the nature and depth of their involvement with youth because they do not want to overstep boundaries.
  • Give 4-H leaders training and support in how to build and maintain mentoring relationships. Mentoring is a natural relationship but some people are better at it than others and some of what the “naturals” do can be learned.
  • Give young people explicit guidance about what mentors are, why they are important, how to identify a prospective mentor, and how to ask an adult to be a mentor, or ask one adult to ask another on the youth’s behalf. Mentoring is a twoway relationship. Some young people are mentor magnets: adults are drawn to them. Other youth could learn to perform their part as mentees more actively.
  • Work with parents to make sure they are open to and supportive of mentoring relationships their children might form with other adults. Mentors are sometimes thought of as substitute parents, but the research is clear that mentoring has its influence through parents, not despite them (Rhodes, Grossman, & Resch, 2000).

Parent involvement is related to a critical concern about mentoring. The tragic events at Penn State are a reminder that predators can spot vulnerability in the very young people who most need mentoring and then exploit them. Background checks have become a distasteful but essential part of youth programs, and especially mentoring programs. To the extent that 4-H encourages the formation of close relationships between young people and adults outside their families, those adults, whether club leaders or in some other role, should undergo background checks. This procedure helps shield the organization and it offers some protection to young people, but considering that the vast majority of child sexual abusers are family members (30%) or people known to the family (60%) and that most offenses are never reported, background checks are hardly adequate. More important is making sure that young people have someone they can confide in when someone they trust makes them feel uncomfortable. Fortunately abuse is rare and abuse by someone a young person regards as a mentor is unlikely. Making the benefits of mentoring more widely available requires us to see how such a relationship fits into the set of relationships in a young person’s life and how those relationships can be mutually reinforcing.

References

DuBois, D.L., Portillo, N., Rhodes, J.E., Silverthorn, N., & Valentine, J.C. (2011). How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of the evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12(2): 57-91.

Erickson L.D., McDonald S., & Elder Jr. G.H. (2009). Informal mentors and education: Complementary or compensatory resources? Sociology of Education, 82(4), 344-367.

Hamilton, S.F., & Hamilton, M.A. (2004). Contexts for mentoring: Adolescent-adult relationships in workplaces and communities. In R.M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.) Handbook of adolescent psychology. New York: Wiley.

McDonald, S., & Lambert, J. (2011). The long arm of mentoring: Informal adolescent mentoring and employment outcomes in young adulthood. Unpublished paper prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rhodes, J. E., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (2000). Agents of change: Pathways through which mentoring relationships influence adolescents’ academic adjustment. Child Development, 71, 1662–1671.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, October 24, 2011

4-H participants

Students learning about careers in natural resources participate in mushroom identification at the 4-H Career Explorations program on campus this past summer.

To strengthen its ties to research, oversight of 4-H -- New York state's largest youth development program -- has moved to Cornell's new Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research from Cornell Cooperative Extension. The move will provide new opportunities for teaching and research and help to improve 4-H programs.

"Research is critical to the mission of preparing youth for adulthood," said Stephen Hamilton, professor of human development and associate director for youth development at the Bronfenbrenner Center. "In the translational research model, science informs program content, how it is delivered and how results are evaluated. In turn, practice informs research by identifying new questions that research could address.

"By bringing 4-H even closer to the university, our aim is to ensure that programming decisions are based on the best evidence of what young people need and what programs are most likely to meet those needs. Some of the evidence will be found in the research literature. Some will be generated by research conducted by Cornell faculty and staff working collaboratively with 4-H educators, volunteers, youth and other stakeholders."

4-H is rooted in science. The program originated at the land-grant universities at the turn of the 20th century to introduce such improved practices as hybrid seed corn, milk sanitation and safer home canning procedures. Researchers found young people were more open than adults to the new ideas and technologies and would share their successes with their parents and communities. These innovative programs for rural youth gave rise to the first 4-H clubs. Soon 4-H became a national youth development program run by the land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension system.

In New York state in 2009-10, almost 17,000 volunteers and 113,000 youth from urban, suburban and rural communities participated in 4-H. State staff in the Bronfenbrenner Center guide programs and provide support for 4-H educators in each county's Cornell Cooperative Extension office. 4-H provides hands-on learning and mentoring through community clubs, camp settings, after-school and school-based projects that emphasize science, engineering and technology, citizenship and healthy lifestyles. Learning by doing is a fundamental 4-H ideal intended to encourage young people to experiment, innovate and think independently, and to help them develop leadership, citizenship and life skills.

"Our goal is to link the extensive array of county-level programs with the latest research on youth development," said Valerie Adams, New York 4-H youth development program leader. "In an era where such programs compete intensely for funding and for time -- both on the part of kids who participate and the adult volunteers and staff who run them -- we need to be able to show that these projects make a difference. With 4-H as a part of the Bronfenbrenner Center, we have a wonderful opportunity to provide the type of support our county educators need to do just that."

The Bronfenbrenner Center, based in the College of Human Ecology, formed in July 2011 when the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center merged.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

Related Links:
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
College of Human Ecology
New York State 4-H

Adams

By John McKain
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 5, 2011

Valerie Adams will become New York's 4-H Youth Development Program leader and assistant director of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) as of Aug. 29.

Adams will plan, deliver and evaluate 4-H, the youth component of CCE, supported by staff in 57 counties and New York City and thousands of volunteer leaders across the state. She will link extensive county-level programs with the research-based resources of Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Human Ecology.

A former 4-H educator in Philadelphia, she also has worked with Junior Achievement, Children's Defense Fund Freedom School, 21st Century Community Learning Center, Center for Youth Development at the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and as a lecturer in Namibia.

She currently serves as research coordinator for the Preventing Long-term Anger and Aggression in Youth Project at the University of Pennsylvania, where she integrates developmental theories into the design and application of culturally relevant interventions.

Adams said, "I am excited about serving as the NYS 4-H leader because it provides a wonderful opportunity to work with a dynamic group of people -- researchers, educators, volunteers and administrators who are passionate and vested in supporting and creating programs that result in positive youth development programming for 4-Hers across the state."

Adams received her B.S. from Philadelphia University, master's degree in urban education from Temple University and Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies and human development from the University of Pennsylvania. She has done additional graduate study in South Africa.

Adams, said CCE Director Helene Dillard, "is clearly suited to advance the mission of Cornell Cooperative Extension and our 4-H youth development programs. Her history of moving innovative research into on-the-ground programs, and her first-hand experience working with kids in diverse settings, will make her a real asset to our programs, our educators and volunteers, and all the youth in New York who participate in 4-H."

With Adams' appointment, 4-H will relocate to the new Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. Formed by the merger of the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, the new center in the College of Human Ecology will bridge the gap between research and practice. 4-H will be at the vanguard of using research on youth development and learning to guide practices and programs. Practitioners, youth and other stakeholders will also engage in evaluation and other forms of research.

"Valerie is an advocate for 4-H and is highly qualified to advance youth development programs across the state," said Steve Hamilton, associate director for youth development at the Bronfenbrenner Center. "With her background and expertise, Valerie adds tremendous depth to the programs, and we look forward to a future of continued improvement."

With more than 6 million youth members, 4-H is the largest out-of-school youth organization in the United States. 4-H has been enriching the lives of youth and their families since the beginning of the 20th century. CCE staff members lead 4-H programs in nearly every county and city in New York state.

John McKain is assistant dean for communications in the College of Human Ecology.

Related Links:
New York State 4-H
College of Human Ecology