Local partnerships help Michigan State University Extension make an impact in Cass County 2017

Partnerships with local organizations help empower youth and build entrepreneurs.

A three-day entrepreneurship camp held in July was part of a new partnership with Educational Talent Search (ETS) at Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) in Dowagiac. The camp offered five high school youth a chance to explore entrepreneurship as a career.

From a motivational discussion with Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons, to vendors at the Dowagiac Farm and Artisan Market, local entrepreneurs shared their stories and words of wisdom. A panel of three local entrepreneurs helped wrap up the experience and provide feedback to the kids based on participants’ “business in a bag” concepts.

One participant shared that she will be able to create, plan and develop a business. She learned ways to be successful as an entrepreneur and was reassured that it's okay to take risks and make mistakes. “I had a lot of sharing opportunities that will hopefully help me with breaking out of my shell. I had a first-hand opportunity talking to real life entrepreneurs and hearing their stories,” said the Cass county youth. All the girls agreed to continue to develop their workforce readiness skills and to use the new skills they learned at camp as they looked for educational and career opportunities.

The entrepreneur program, as well as “Golead Camp,” a three-day leadership activity (involving 13 youth from Cass) were taught by MSU Extension Educators and funded in part by SMC’s Educational Talent Search program in 2018. MSU Extension has embarked on a multi-year relationship with SMC to provide training for the students eligible for the program. This collaboration leverages resources from both to enhance the academic and personal success of young people. The ETS advocates for the successful completion of high school and for youth to advance on to college or training after high school. The aim of ETS is to provide opportunities for students to reach their maximum potential—a natural fit for MSU Extension’s 4-H youth development curricula.

More with Southwestern Michigan College: SMC hosted an Agriculture Awareness day for local high school FFA Chapters and ag programs. MSU Extension Educators were there to inform 60 youth from Cass, 40 from Berrien and 20 adults about career opportunities in agriculture—specifically as it relates to technology, marketing and production. Family farming and women in agriculture where highlighted as a way to make the information personal and interesting to the young people.

Speaking of partnerships and ag awareness: A huge thank you to Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC) for housing and supporting Farm Safety Camp 2018. This successful program was attended by 40 youth who learned about safety issues related to grain bins, pesticides, propane, lawnmowers, tractors, ATV and animals. All the youth said they learned something new and how to prevent and handle dangerous farm situations. “I am confident every youth that attended this camp went home knowing how to keep themselves safe on a farm, whether it’s their own or a relative’s farm, or in a future agriculture job,” said the Cass County 4-H Program Coordinator. “The youth will take this knowledge they gained and share it with others. Cass 4-H is looking forward to a continued partnership with MEC as well as holding this program again, to lower the cases of farm related accidents in the Southwest Michigan area.”


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