The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H program recently hosted 19 youths from Russia as part of a leadership program focused on volunteerism and citizenship. The program was funded by the United States Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The participants spent three weeks in the United States and did everything from exploring Washington, D.C., going to the Urban Tree Connection in Philadelphia and visiting New York City. They also had a weekend retreat at Cape Henlopen State Park where they interacted with Delaware 4-H members, went to the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford and made fleece blankets for the non-profit organization “Fleece for Keeps,” which donates the blankets to children in the state’s foster care system. The students took part in workshops that included personality development, managing conflict and effective communication. While participating in the program, the youths were asked to develop service-learning projects designed to solve problems facing their communities, important information that they can take with them as they return home. Mallory Vogl, an extension agent for UD Cooperative Extension, said the students chose topics such as bully prevention, teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol addiction. The 19 participants came from five cities across Russia, including Moscow and Vladivostok, and Vogl said that they went through a rigorous application process to take part in the program. “This group of kids were so empowering not just to the teenagers from Delaware that they got to work with but even for the staff. We were just blown away and impressed by not only their knowledge of government within their country but also their knowledge of our country as well and their ability in only three weeks to really have such an impact,” said Vogl. When the program ended, it was hard for the young people and the staff members to say goodbye. “It was so impactful to these kids, and we have kids that are interested in coming back to UD. We have kids that are interested in coming back to the U.S. in general and they all agreed that this was an absolute life-changing experience. For all of us staff, too – I’ve worked with a lot of groups but this group was just incredible,” said Vogl. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.