Building youth leadership in Clermont County starts with the LOOK to Clermont program facilitated by the community partnership with the University of Cincinnati – Clermont College and Ohio State University Extension – Clermont County through collaboration within all four Extension program areas. This tight-knit partnership came to evolve from a nearly twenty-year-old program that was formerly operated by Clermont 20/20 in partnership with the Clermont Chamber of Commerce. Also, featuring an adult program called LEAD Clermont, these adult LEADers aide in the learning experience for the Clermont County youth of the program.
The LOOK to Clermont program is a series of classroom and practical learning experiences. Here high school students from throughout the county meet monthly to develop and enhance leadership skills while increasing awareness of critical issues within Clermont County. Embedded in this program is a course where students receive college credit through the College Credit Plus program. Juniors receive credit from the University of Cincinnati – Clermont College, while seniors receive credit from The Ohio State University for the COMLDR 3530: Foundations of Personal and Professional Leadership course in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
In addition to individual assignments and class time experience, the students participate in community projects where they are able to add value and positively impact Clermont County first hand. Students practice speaking by sharing information gleaned from local research and exposure to local leaders in action. The ultimate goal of the program is that through strong community partnerships Clermont County high school students are prepared to be tomorrow’s community leaders.
Not only does the LOOK to Clermont program facilitate community development through partnerships with other organizations and local citizens, it unites the Extension program areas in collaboration. Each monthly class has a theme, such as teambuilding, history and agriculture, civic engagement, education, personal finance, safety and justice, community development, or envisioning the future. Depending on the theme for the particular day, the county educators work closely to utilize their personal networks to engage the students in a learning experience that will best benefit them while giving exposure to the individual or group within the county that may be hosting or presenting the class. This allows a Community Development rooted program to nurture the countywide network through Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H Youth Development, and Agriculture and Natural Resources. Further, the students gain knowledge in a wide array of topics relevant to Clermont County in a short period of time.
Earlier this month the LOOK to Clermont program held the history and agriculture day. The students met at the Extension office where they discussed the rich history of agriculture in Clermont County with the Agriculture and Natural Resources educator, Gigi Neal. Next, the group toured the county with stops including: Carney’s Feed Mill, Grant’s Farm and Greenhouse, Cornwell Farms, and Shaw Farms. Along the way the students were able to learn about a historic family-based feed milling business, a grain farm and greenhouse in full production, water quality and its importance through a Conservation Innovation Grant Basin and reduction in nutrient run-off.
For lunch the Family and Consumer Sciences educator, Margaret Jenkins, arranged a nutritious picnic-style meal. The day ended with a stop at an agritourism farm where the students were able to use their leadership skills to navigate a corn maze. The corn maze activity was aided by the Real Colors® program previously facilitated in part by the 4-H Youth Development educator, Kelly Royalty, where students were mixed with different colors to see how different personalities work together. This class day is just one example of how the LOOK to Clermont program works to nurture the many networking opportunities given on a daily basis to positively impact Clermont County residents.
Currently, the LOOK to Clermont partners are working to measure the true reach of the program on Clermont County individuals and families. Positive impacts can be extensively seen through the success of previous program graduates. For more information on LOOK to Clermont, visit the Clermont County Extension page.
(Submitted by Trevor Corboy, Student Assistant, Community Development State Office & Clermont County; Margaret Jenkins, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Clermont County; Gigi Neal, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Clermont County; and Kelly Royalty, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Clermont County)