By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service


Manhattan, KS – A program supported by the National 4-H Council and implemented by the Douglas County extension office is helping to prepare high school students for college and future careers.


Kaitlyn Peine, a community health and wellness agent for K-State Research and Extension, said many of the teens participating in the program – called Youth Futures — would be the first generation from their family to attend college.


“The program is for potential first generation college students, students of low socio-economic households, or students of an under-represented race,” she said.


Youth Futures pairs college students as mentors with high school students. Currently, the mentors are 10 students from the University of Kansas, who are working with 68 students from Lawrence Free State High School.


“Serving as a mentor is a pretty big commitment,” Peine said. “They are committing to working with a group of 4-6 students one hour a week throughout the school year.”


The mentors, she said, not only help the younger students learn what college is like, they also help with such things as applying for college and how to get involved on campus.


There are also lessons on food and nutrition and applying for financial aid; and opportunities to visit college campuses in Kansas.


“We try to be strategic when selecting the college student mentors,” Peine said. “It’s not a requirement that they are a first-generation college student themselves, but it’s helpful when you are looking at building a relationship.


“It’s a whole different experience for students who we consider potential first generation college students. Their parents have not been through that experience and there are a lot of hoops to jump through. Having a connection with a college student who’s been in that situation and lived the experience has been valuable.”


Youth Futures also aligns well with the Kansas 4-H program’s commitment to preparing youth for college and future careers, Peine said.


“This is 4-H youth development work,” she said. “It looks and feels a little different from the community club program. This is what we consider our outreach program in serving an under-represented audience. These students would not likely be part of our community club program, but they still get to experience a piece of what K-State Research and Extension can offer through those college and career readiness lessons.”


Peine added that the emphasis is not solely on encouraging students toward four-year schools. They are encouraged to also consider community colleges and technical schools, she said.


“We want these students to realize there are options available to them, and what the steps look like to work toward those goals.”


More information on Youth Futures and other opportunities available through the Kansas 4-H program is available online, or through local extension offices in Kansas.