With passions for STEM and community service, mother-daughter duo forge new 4-H club
Amid a global pandemic, Dr. Teena Chopra, a Wayne County Michigan 4-H volunteer, and her daughter Simran, a 4-H member, dive headfirst into 4-H.
In 2019, Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H., enrolled her daughter Simran as a Cloverbud member of Michigan 4-H in Wayne County. An initiative of Michigan State University Extension, Michigan 4-H is the state’s largest youth development program and Cloverbuds are it’s youngest members: youth ages 5-7. Cloverbuds engage in many of the same programs as older 4-H’ers but focus on participation and learning outside of a competitive environment. After a year of being involved, Teena and Simran were having so much fun that Teena decided to become a 4-H volunteer.
“I have mentored many high school students from Detroit,” said Teena. “Working with them gave me an insight into the gaps and needs of this community. That's when I decided to volunteer my time.”
Teena, who is an infectious disease specialist, officially became a Michigan 4-H volunteer in February 2020, on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic ravaged the state and world, Teen was on the frontlines and was recently recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of their Health Care Hero’s for 2021. Coined the “COVID-19 Explainer-in-Chief” for her role as the director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center, the recognition applauds much of Teena’s hard work throughout the pandemic.
Despite her busy schedule and demanding role during a year of great uncertainty, neither Teena nor Simran were discouraged from being engaged in 4-H. Instead, they recognized that the tough times created a need for programming that would keep youth stimulated and engaged and they went above and beyond to fill it. Having passed down her own passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and community service to her daughter, Teena credits much of her motivation and involvement in 4-H to supporting Simran’s work and interests.
“Simran loved to share her joy of reading with others and that's how she started getting involved in community service,” said Teena. “She started doing book drives and named her campaign Building Bridges through Books which evolved into [the creation of] Building Bridges through STEM.”
Building Bridges through STEM is the new virtual club launched by Simran and Teena. At the beginning of the pandemic, Simran missed seeing and interacting with her friends and peers. With Teena’s help as a volunteer, Simran launched the club, which meets every weekend and features different speakers from various STEM fields who share their knowledge about the field and how they got to where they are in their career. This popular club now has 30 members, some of which reside outside of Michigan. It has also created unique opportunities for Simran, including being invited to discuss the club on several episodes of the Toronto Student Media Network podcast.
"I feel I have inspired my club members to love STEM through the weekly sessions,” said Simran. “We look forward to a new journey into the world of STEM every week. When I surveyed my club members to get their feedback, 90 percent said the club had sparked their interest in STEM fields and more and more want to pursue STEM fields in the future. I envision my club to keep growing and building bridges amongst the youth of today."
In addition to creating a new club, Teena and Simran also circulated educational videos on proper hand washing and mask wearing techniques during the pandemic. Originally created for Simran’s school, the pair shared them with the 4-H community to provide simple, yet critical, COVID-19 tips in an easy format to consume. Teena and Simran’s community service efforts also include raising money and materials for various 4-H and school drives, donating touch-screen tablets to the Wayne County 4-H program, and providing healthy living educational materials, which is one of Simran’s 4-H project areas.
“It has been very rewarding seeing how our work has impacted others in the community,” said Teena. “We have gained a second family from 4-H, have experienced such kindness and been welcomed by other members, volunteers and staff.”
In Wayne County, the 4-H community is grateful for all the two have accomplished in such a short time and for their many contributions to the local program.
“I truly enjoy having Teena and Simran as part of our Wayne County 4-H community,” said Milaina McCann, Wayne County MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator. “You can truly see how much Teena loves youth voice and youth recognition. As a 4-H parent and 4-H volunteer, she empowers Simran and other 4-H youth to explore their interests, develop their ideas, and showcase their skills. Each project from STEM to community service has been youth selected and led. Teena and Simran are a great reflection of 4-H youth adult partnerships.”
To learn more about Michigan 4-H and how you can get involved as a 4-H youth or volunteer, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu.