4-H prepares Latino youth for high-tech future

Tech Wizard students learn STEM subjects from OSU Extension.
Tech Wizard students learn to create websites, produce videos and podcasts, and build robots. (Photo: Rodolfo Arguedas)

'Tech Wizards' learn skills in web development, video and podcast production, GPS technologies and robotics

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are important to the United States' economic strength. But there’s concern about whether today’s youth have the skills to fill these careers. Of particular concern is the underrepresentation of Latinos in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The Oregon State University Extension Service's 4-H program is helping to change that through a program called Tech Wizards. Launched in 1998, this bilingual afterschool program teaches technological skills to at-risk, underserved students in grades 4 through 12 who are considered at risk of dropping out of school. Students in the program learn to create websites, produce videos and podcasts, make computerized maps and participate in habitat restoration projects. They are also required to perform 15 hours of community service each year in science-related fields.

4-H Tech Wizards engages undeserved, underrepresented youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in out-of-school mentoring.  At the same time, parents of the students are provided assistance and education to support their children in their educational achievement.  Through a mentoring approach, the program literally “wraps itself around” a young person and his or her family to provide the systems and support they need to navigate their way to higher education and careers STEM.

The program has been so successful that OSU Extension helped replicate the program at 135 sites in 22 states with approximately 3,750 kids enrolled in 2017. Since its beginning, more than 3,500 students have participated in the program in Oregon. About 95 percent have graduated from high school, and about 70 percent of those have pursued more education in science, technology, engineering or math.

Source: Pat Willis, OSU Extension Youth Development Faculty and 4-H Tech Wizards coordinator

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