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Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

KNOXVILLE – A Tennessee 4-H program that encourages young people to avoid harmful narcotics and resist substance abuse will continue its educational efforts — after being awarded funding for the second straight year. State 4-H leaders with University of Tennessee Extension hope to use this money to continue to expand the program.
 The “Health Rocks!” program will receive private funds from National 4-H Council. Grants were awarded to Tennessee and nine other states recently. Tennessee also received these funds last year.
 “Health Rocks!” is a healthy-living curriculum taught in many counties statewide where the emphasis is on resisting peer pressure to try illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  
 “I think 4-H youth are at the age where we can begin to educate and make a difference, and give them the skills they might need later on to refuse those things and not start that habit,” says Steve Sutton, director of Tennessee 4-H.
 “Health Rocks!” was first implemented in 2005 in parts of Tennessee, and then the curriculum was expanded statewide in 2008. Over the past year, the program reached 8,500 youth.
 Justin Crowe, who is now with the State 4-H Office at UT, first taught the curriculum in Davidson County where he was a 4-H agent. There the lessons focused on the dangers of cigarette smoking. Later lesson plans included areas such as illegal drugs and underage drinking.
 “The 4-H ‘Health Rocks!’ program has allowed our state to provide educational programming for youth in areas such as healthy lifestyle choices, decision-making and dealing with peer pressure,” Crowe says. “The program has made a tremendous impact statewide and we have reached approximately 30,000 youth since it started.”
 Even with this significant impact, Tennessee 4-H has set a goal of reaching another 12,000 youth with the “Health Rocks!” message in 2011. Several new counties have already signed on to participate in the program.
 Tennessee was recently visited by a review team from National 4-H Council, and two counties were recognized for their programming excellence – Sevier and Smith counties. Sevier County partnered with the local Boys and Girls Club to educate youth. Smith County joined with a local middle school guidance counselor to deliver the program.
 “We look forward to the impact these winning programs will have upon the 4-H system and the 4-H healthy living programs across the country,” said Don Floyd of National 4-H Council in announcing the grants.
 4-H is the youth development program of UT Extension. 4-H teaches leadership, citizenship and life skills to more than 300,000 youth in grades 4-12. 4-H also has more than 18,000 adult volunteers statewide.
 UT Extension operates in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties as the off-campus division of the UT Institute of Agriculture. An educational and outreach organization funded by federal, state and local governments, UT Extension, in cooperation with Tennessee State University, brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and youth and community development to the people of Tennessee where they live and work.

wcp 4/21/11

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