- (Condition Change) Improved college readiness and access
- Author: Marisa Neelon
- Author: Eli Figuroa
- Co-PI: Charles Go
Teens enrolled in Contra Costa County's virtual YPAR series gained knowledge about the social determinants of health and explored career trajectories to address critical health issues in their community. These projects help to increase community health and wellness and promote college readiness and access
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed health inequities associated with the social determinants of health (SDOH),1 which “are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life-risks and outcomes.”2 Educating young people about the SDOH and engaging them in youth-led research to address health issues in their community is essential in shaping their future education and career goals.
How UC Delivers
The pandemic presented challenges initiating and engaging students in educational programs such as a Youth-Led Participatory Action Research Project (YPAR) because of the transition to online learning. Meeting the challenge to pivot from in-person to virtual programming, the Contra Costa County YPAR coordinator successfully facilitated a 100% remote youth-led program during the 2020-2021 school year at a new site, Dozier Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS), in Antioch, California.
DLMHS is a charter school where 58.9% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged.3 The school focuses on health and medicine and developing future health professionals and was selected because its mission and values align with CFHL, UC to help people lead healthier lives.
An existing relationship with a DLMHS teacher and 4-H parent led to a virtual meeting with the principal who agreed to offer a YPAR program at DLMHS. Students were recruited through the school website and social media platforms, and five teens from the 11th grade were interviewed and selected to join the program and were also enrolled in 4-H.
The YPAR coordinator and a colleague from Merced County met with the teen leaders weekly over Zoom. They used various educational tech tools to facilitate activities from the Community Futures, Community Lore's Nine Stepping Stones guides to educate student leaders about YPAR. To encourage critical thinking and learning, the coordinators assigned videos and readings for group discussion that addressed the SDOH. These activities exposed the teens to health inequities in their community to consider for their YPAR project and fueled their career aspirations to make a difference in individual and community health.
After this program year, four of the five teens completed a survey. They reported learning about the SDOH and when asked what, if any, impact this project had on their future education plans or future career interests, responses included:
“This project has opened my eyes to many different issues in my community and I feel like in my future job/career interests I will bring these issues with me and try to make a change so new generations don't see the same issues that we did. I want to make a change with my line of study.”
“I want to be a Doctor of Internal Medicine due to the program since I have learned the factors in the environment that affect health and can even cause chronic conditions which could be prevented or alleviated with the right nutrition and physical activity.”
These responses indicate new learning about community health and wellness, as well as increased college readiness. Youth participating in YPAR projects focused on nutrition and physical activity interventions, have been shown to promote healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease.4;5 UCCE Contra Costa County's effort demonstrate UC ANR's public value of Healthy People and Communities.
1. Abrams, E. M., & Szefler, S. J. (2020). COVID-19 and the impact of social determinants of health. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 8(7), 659-661.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social Determinants of Health: Know What Effects Health. https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm. Accessed September 7, 2021.
3. California Department of Education. California School Dashboard. 2020. https://www.caschooldashboard.org/reports/07616480117218/2020. Accessed September 7, 2021
4. Nour, M., Lutze, S., Grech A., & Allman-Farinelli, M (2018). The Relationship between Vegetable Intake and Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies. Nutrients. 10(11), 1626.
5. US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf. Accessed October 18, 2021./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Julie Finzel
- Author: Theresa Becchetti
- Author: Rebecca Ozeran
- Author: Devii Rao
UC ANR Advisors restructured Range Camp, a rangeland education program that has helped 95% of participants improve their understanding of ecosystem processes in California's rangelands, supporting a more qualified workforce.
Rangelands cover 62.9 million acres of California; almost 63% of the state. California rangelands support livestock production and provide important ecosystem services including wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and beautiful viewsheds. California's Range and Natural Resources Camp (Range Camp) provides a five day immersive camp experience for high school students ages 15-18 focused on the science and art of range and natural resources management. The camp is held annually at UC's Elkus Ranch. For 35 years, the California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management organized and sponsored Range Camp. As time passed, it became clear that a new organization needed to pick up the reins of Range Camp to sustain this effective youth science education outreach program.
How UC Delivers
This week-long long camp is held annually at UC's Elkus Ranch and provides an immersive experience focused on the science and art of range and natural resource management. Livestock and natural resources Advisors Theresa Becchetti, Julie Finzel, Rebecca Ozeran, and Devii Rao provided capacity for all facets of Range Camp planning and operations. They secured funding to integrate a teacher training component into camp and to facilitate the development of a high school range management curriculum focused on the unique characteristics of California rangelands.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and it became clear that an in-person camp was not feasible, the camp was restructured to accommodate an all virtual experience. The traditionally week-long camp was condensed into 23 brief videos and activities, each of which covered an important science concept. Topics included:
- Rangeland Ecology
- Rangeland Monitoring
- Plant Identification
- Virtual Ranch Tours
- Ranch Economics
- Climate Change
- Fire Ecology
- Careers in Range Management
A survey was distributed in 2017 to campers from 2001-2016 to assess the impact of Range Camp. The survey response rate was 18%, with 95% of respondents indicating that camp increased their understanding of natural resources and 90% of respondents reporting that camp changed their perceptions of how our personal actions affect the environment. College majors among survey respondents were heavily weighted towards science degrees. Range Camp graduates have gone on to be UCCE Advisors, work for NASA, direct youth education outreach organizations and more, demonstrating how new partnerships and contributions from UC ANR Advisors have cultivated new rangeland professionals and contributes to UC ANR's public value of developing a qualified workforce. Range Camp is about more than teaching science; it's about challenging preconceptions, fostering new friendships, and building life skills. One camper stated:
I felt so complete when the sun was disappearing behind the hills…it was as if camp made me realize that I can make a difference. Suddenly, beating global warming and climate change seemed possible…Range Camp has enlightened me. It has changed me. It has permanently made me a ‘happy camper.'
To learn more about Range Camp, visit our program website.
- Author: Marcel Horowitz
- Contributor: Anne Iaccopucci
- Contributor: Evelyn Mandujano
- Contributor: Carson Bain
As a result of the UC 4-H Mindful Me classes, 77% of participants agreed that they were better able to manage negative emotions, improving their health and wellness.
The social-emotional health of American youth is of growing concern. The Centers for Disease Control reports that anxiety and depression are on the rise in American children ages 3-17, with an estimated 7.1% and 3.2% of children currently being clinically diagnosed, respectively. There are many postulated factors that may influence these trends including social isolation, too much screen time, a focus on personal desires, hyper-competitive activities, over-scheduling, poor diets, lack of sleep, less time outdoors in nature, and over-stimulation.
Skills can be learned to help to mitigate these challenges. For example, learning to be more optimistic and grateful towards others, and for what we have, enhances happiness and quality of life. These positive social skills are important because not only do strong relationships help fend off depression, they are often cited as the most crucial to school and work success. Learning positive coping and emotion regulation skills helps prevent youth from succumbing to common risky stress management techniques, like alcohol and drugs.
How UC Delivers
Three teenagers from the University of California 4-H Youth Development Program taught mindful practices to nearly forty young children. These teens attended several days of training and were guided by their UC ANR Healthy Youth, Families, and Communities Advisor. The teens gained teaching and leadership experience, in addition to their own growth in the practice of mindfulness techniques.
Teen teacher Evelyn Mandujano shared, “Working with adults and teens to teach children the Mindful Me project was a great experience and opportunity to learn how people of all ages can benefit from being mindful and using these practices in our daily lives.” Another teen teacher Ethan Horowitz reflected “that our mindful me project was extremely beneficial towards the children that participated, especially in the category of personal mindfulness and stress management.” Teen teacher Carson Bain added, “What I liked best about doing this project was seeing the kids coming in every week excited and anticipating what the lesson would be for the day.”
Thirty-six first to third graders attended one of the six classes offered in an after school program in Northern California. Skills taught during these classes ranged from mindful eating, active play and breathing exercises, attentive listening skills, practicing gratitude, learning to live in-the-moment, and emotion regulation. Storybooks were foundational to the lessons, and experiential activities further enhanced the learning. The 4-H Mindful Me curriculum was used, which was developed by the University of California 4-H program. These materials are peer-reviewed and available from National 4-H.
Seventy-seven percent of participants agreed that they were better able to manage negative emotions as a result of the Mindful Me classes. Current research has demonstrated the importance of mindfulness training in promoting favorable academic, social-emotional, psychological and behavioral outcomes for youth. The management of negative emotions is critical for problem-solving, on-going positive social interactions, and classroom compliance. It can also improve cardiovascular health, given cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Americans.
Upon completion of the lessons, 55% of students felt they learned to be better listeners. Listening skills are critical components of focus and attention. Over nine percent of children today suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Several studies have shown that deficits in focus and attention make learning in school difficult, which impacts long-term academic success and college readiness. Mindfulness enhances neurological structures for improved cognitive function, which aid in self-regulation and decision making.
At the completion of the classes, 77% of children agreed that you should tell people when you are thankful. Learning to be grateful (and to tell people as much), has been found to increase optimism and positive mental affect. This can lead to a reduction in anxiety and depression, an increase in hopefulness, better work performance and greater social ties. Current research indicates that poor mental health, such as excessive pessimism, anxiety and depression interfere with school success, work success and quality of life. They can also manifest into negative physical health outcomes.
The majority of children in the class -- 77% -- would refer a friend to participate. The 4-H Mindful Me program helps to direct youth on a path to improve the health, wellness, and college readiness of youth. In this way UC ANR is contributing to promoting healthy people and communities in California.