August 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW3

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Changing for the Future

This article describes the USDA/Army School-Age and Teen Project. This project provides one example of how USDA/Extension is changing to meet the needs of other government organizations. It also examines benefits of such national partnerships for Cooperative Extension at the national, state, and county levels.

Angela J. Huebner
Teen Coordinator: USDA/Army School-Age and Teen Project
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Internet address:

Carol Benesh
Teen Specialist: USDA/Army School-Age and Teen Project
University of Idaho
Moscow, Idaho
Internet address:

Oh the times they are a changing! Who would have thought that over 130 years later Extension would be where it is today? It's encouraging to know that our organization is able to change with the times. Examples of these organizational changes are evidenced in the new partnerships Extension continues to form with other organizations at the community, state, and federal level.

While you may be aware of the Children, Youth and Families at Risk initiative that funded 96 community-based projects in 450 communities, the fifteen state projects to strengthen Community Programs, and four electronically linked National Networks, there are some exciting new additions to the list. One of the most recent endeavors includes a new partnership at the National level with the Department of the Army--the USDA-Army School-Age and Teen Project.

Specifically, The Army School-Age and Teen Project (ASA&T project) is a national collaborative effort between the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Army. In March 1995, the Community and Family Support Center of the Army signed an interagency agreement with the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), USDA, to provide new program operational materials, training, and technical assistance for both school-age and teen programs to over 44 Army installations located within the United States, the Pacific Rim, and Europe.

CSREES, through Kansas State University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Auburn University has subcontracted with over 25 other universities for Cooperative Extension professionals to implement the pilot project. The project is funded through September 1997. Kansas State University is developing a web site that will allow Internet access to the materials used in the project.

While such an agreement may appear to be business as usual, it is a bold step for Extension to forge a partnership with another government agency outside of USDA. From a strategic planning perspective, this partnership offers an opportunity for CSREES to position itself as an organization that provides a central function for the national government. This central function is the provision of training and resources to other essential government organizations regarding issues related to children, youth and families.

Because Cooperative Extension is located within the Land- Grant University system, the training and resources it can provide come from well-evaluated, research-based materials. Cooperative Extension is able to expand its target audience to include other government agencies by relying on the strength of the entire Cooperative Extension system, the Children, Youth, and Families National Networks, and other technological advances including e-mail and expanded Internet access.

In addition to the obvious benefits the Army will receive, this type of partnership has exciting implications for the Cooperative Extension System at the national, state and county levels. At the national level, this project provides Extension with the opportunity to expand its own National Juried Curriculum Collection Library of curricula materials and programs. This expansion means that more high quality programming materials will be available for use by the entire System. Building on the foundation of Internet access established through the National Networks, these materials will be available for downloading to any State or County office. From a State and County perspective, this project provides an opportunity for Extension personnel to market curricula materials developed in their state to a global audience.

An additional benefit at the state and county level is the formation of local partnerships between Extension personnel and Army installation staff. As part of the ASA&T project, school-age and teen specialists make contact with Extension personnel located in counties with pilot project installation sites. They invite county extension agents to co-facilitate or to participate in training sessions offered to installation staff.

Such partnerships at the local level are particularly useful because they facilitate the sharing of the rich resources found within both systems--Army and Extension. For example, Army installations may want to offer 4-H programming as part of their School-Age Services Programs or Youth Services Programs; reciprocally, installation may be able to offer young people in local 4-H programs access to recreational opportunities available on the installations (e.g. stables, swimming pools, ropes courses, etc.).

The USDA/ARMY School-Age and Teen Project is just one example of how our organization can and has adapted to meet the growing needs of our society. It is our hope that USDA and Cooperative Extension continue to show such flexibility and insight in planning well into the future.