by Terry Rogers
In partnership with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Office and 4-H, Milford School District offers an after school and summer program for Milford High School and Milford Central Academy students. The program, which is free to all participants, teaches students about leadership, healthy living, college and career readiness STEAM, service learning as well as independent living skills.
“This program offers assistance with homework, cooking instruction, sports and more,” Doug Crouse, State Program Leader for 4H Youth Development at the University of Delaware, said. “It is a summer camp type setup with programs brought in from the hundreds offered through 4-H. We have created a gospel choir, a gaming club, taught kids how to cook foods from different countries and are constantly expanding what we offer.”
The program begins immediately after school dismisses and runs until 5:30 PM. There is free transportation available as well. This program was made possible with a 21st Century grant which is monitored by the University of Delaware and 4-H.
“The grant process is very competitive and we began working toward getting the grant over two years ago,” Crouse explained. “Our biggest challenge has been getting it up and running, making tweaks and changes as we go. We are currently serving between 45 and 50 students but we need to have 75 based on the requirements of the grant, so we want to create an awareness of what is available.”
Kaleb Scott, Kent County Afterschool Director, explained that the program is available for any student who is interested, regardless of income. It provides them with a safe environment after school where they can learn and have fun. According to Scott, parents also benefit from the after-school and summer program as their children are spending free time learning new skills and mastering previously learned skills. Karen Johnston, 4-H Grant Manager, explained that one student from the program will attend a healthy living summit with her in February. Any student who joins the after-school or summer program automatically becomes a member of 4-H if they choose to do so.
“This summer, at the Delaware State Fair, kids in this program were able to enter items in contests at the fair,” Scott said. “In just this program alone, kids came home with over $500 in prize money that they get to keep. They can save it, spend it, do whatever they want with the money they win at the fair. For a lot of children, this is the first time they have ever attempted anything like that and it helps to grow their confidence.”
Crouse stated that 4-H is one of the largest youth development programs in the country, offering a wide range of projects and instructional areas that can be tailored to the needs of each student. Snacks and meals are provided through the Food Bank of Delaware’s Child and Adult Care Food Program when school is in session and the Delaware Summer Feeding program during the summer. Transportation is provided for the summer program as well at no charge to participants.
“We try to talk to the kids and find out what they want to do,” Crouse said. “Of course, we are the University of Delaware, so we want to see kids go to college but we also understand that college is not for everyone. We work with the participants to guide them on the right path in their career choice, whether that be college, trade school, apprenticeships or other education they need to achieve their goals. We try to do it with fun activities. Last year, we had a March Madness competition with kids playing basketball, incorporating learning into the entire process.”
Parents or students who are interested in learning more about the program can pick up an application form in the main office. Once it is completed, it should be returned to the main office and not a teacher. The form can also be downloaded from the Milford School District website. Click on the Programs tab and choose 21st Century Grant – 4-H Program. All forms listed on the website must be completed in order for the child to register. For additional assistance, parents or children can call Dr. Bridget Amory, Director of Student Learning, at 422-1600.