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USDA and White House Strengthen Commitment to Military Families: WSU Extension 4-H Plays Key Role in Reaching Out to Military Youth Nationwide

PULLMAN, Wash. — The USDA, partnering with the White House, reaffirmed its strong commitment to helping military youth and families before, during, and after deployment. President Obama cited the government-wide initiative in the report “Strengthening the Military Family: An Interagency Review.” The report, released this week, addresses the concerns and challenges facing military families.

National Air Guard servicemember shows military youth how to use a GPS during a survival camp at Fairchild AFB in Spokane.
National Air Guard servicemember shows military youth how to use a GPS during a survival camp at Fairchild AFB in Spokane. Click image to download high-resolution version. Photo courtesy Washington State University.

“Washington State University Extension 4-H has provided continuous support to help reach out and support military families,” said Randy de Mars, project director of the WSU Extension Military Partnership. To date, over 42 projects have been completed by WSU as part of an Extension-Military Partnership grant in assisting 18 land-grant universities. Projects include development and implementation of new media to reach military families along with creating marketing and training materials to promote awareness of the many programs available to military youth and their parents and siblings.

In Nov. 2009, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the formation of the USDA and Department of Defense Extension-Military Partnership would focus on three key areas: community capacity building in support of military families, workforce development and strengthening family, child care and youth development programs. WSU is the lead land-grant institution to focus on opportunities for youth. Prior to 2009 WSU 4-H took the lead in Operation Military Kids which reaches youth in the National Guard and Reserves.

“Washington State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has for over a decade partnered with the Department of Defense and the United States Department of Agriculture to provide special programs and opportunities for military-impacted youth,” said Pat BoyEs, director of WSU Extension 4-H. “Equally important has been our work with schools, counselors, churches and communities to increase their understanding of the issues and needs of military youth and their families who live in every community across Washington State, not just in towns near military instillations.”

The efforts of faculty and educators will be featured during the 2011 DoD/USDA Family Resilience Conference: Forging the Partnership, April 26-29, 2011, in Chicago. With more than 1,800 helping professionals representing DoD, USDA, military services, land-grant universities and many other organizations in attendance, this joint conference will feature evidence-based programs that enhance family resilience. The Family Resilience Conference is a collaboration between USDA’s NIFA and DoD’s Military Community and Family Policy. Information is available at