Post-high school aged young adults in Martin and Wilson counties will benefit from a  $640,000 USDA award to Cooperative Extension at A&T. The award will fund a program to help those students understand the educational and other options available after high school.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (11022021-CYFAR Grant) – A new program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will give youth in two underserved North Carolina counties the chance to work with Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T State University to explore post-high school educational and work opportunities.

The USDA’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program awarded $640,000 to Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T and Cooperative Extension at the University of Wisconsin to launch the program Nia: Pathways and Purpose for the Future. The program will target youth in Martin and Wilson counties in North Carolina, two economically distressed counties where black, indigenous, and youth of color often have difficulties transitioning from high school to success in the adult world. Youth in limited-income urban and suburban communities in Wisconsin also will be targeted.

“In youth development, there is a lack of culturally relevant, evidence-based programs that give youth who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) the chance to explore their post-high school pathways while developing their cultural identities,” said Shannon Wiley, Ph.D., assistant professor and 4-H youth development specialist at Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T. “They often aren’t exposed to all the options that are available to them, including trades and professional programs.”

Wiley said data from the 2015 American Community Survey shows well over 60 percent of BIPOC children grow up in households where no adults have graduated from college. More than 60 percent of Hispanic children, and more than one-third of Black and Indigenous children, live in households where adults have no post-secondary educational experiences. Only 16 percent of white children grow up in households where no adults have post-secondary education or training.

“If you don’t know what’s out there and what your options are, if you don’t have an adult to turn to who has gone to college or had professional training, it’s harder to make a successful transition from high school,” said Wiley. “There is a knowledge and an achievement gap that we want to address.”

 Nia will work with teenagers beginning in middle school and encourage them to explore opportunities, work with mentors, and learn about college, professional training, and work options before making decisions about their futures.

The CYFAR funding is for five years. The first year will focus on building strong relationships with schools and community organizations in the targeted counties, working with teachers and 4-H agents to ensure the program aligns with school priorities and schedules, and recruiting teens to participate in a spring pilot program. About 15 youth in each of the two North Carolina counties will participate in the pilot. The full program will be rolled out next fall. 

About North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is the nation’s largest historically black university, ranked number one among public HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report. It is a land-grant, doctoral high-research classified university by the Carnegie Foundation and constituent member of the University of North Carolina system. A&T is known for its leadership in producing graduates in engineering, agriculture and other STEM fields. The university was founded in 1891 and is located in Greensboro, North Carolina.