Thinking Ahead

by Russell Boone

Posted on Jul 21, 2020

4-H National Mentoring Program Banner


Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension 4-H Program is using a grant to help high school students prepare for college and avoid juvenile incarceration.

The 4-H Youth Futures College Within Reach Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) National Mentoring Project, (NMP) awarded FVSU’s 4-H Program a competitive grant of $55,000.  

Woodie Hughes Jr., FVSU’s assistant Extension administrator and state 4-H program leader, said the funds cover expenses related to travel to several college and career events and purchasing supplies for the program.

In addition, Hughes said the grant funds a collaboration between FVSU’s 4-H Program and Turnaround Columbus. Turnaround Columbus is a nonprofit community organization focused on curbing youth violence, urban blight and other community issues in Columbus.     

According to Hughes, the project involves members of Turnaround Columbus and deputies from the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office. Collectively they mentor more than 45 at-risk or underserved minority youths from George Washington Carver High School in Columbus. He also said the FVSU-Turnaround joint effort helps establish FVSU’s 4-H Program as a leader in educating youth and helping them avoid juvenile incarceration through educational opportunities.

Ronzell Buckner, president of Turnaround Columbus, says one of the projects is the development of a community garden on a proposed nature trail. He said the youths will handle the actual planting, growing and harvesting of the garden’s fruits and vegetables.  

“We are going to create an entrepreneurship program out of this by teaching them how to sell and open their own business with these fruits and vegetables,” Buckner said. The Turnaround Columbus president added that products made from the harvested produce will be sold from a fruit stand or small store staffed by the students.       

“Working with youth through positive 4-H youth development experiences may save lives and lead to growing the next generation of 21st century innovators,” Hughes said. “These young people will help solve global issues relating to food safety, agriculture and water conservation,” the state 4-H program leader said.

Hughes said that by exposing students to the benefits of completing a degree in higher education, it may also lead to increased enrollment at FVSU. “The project will introduce all youth participants to post-secondary education opportunities at Fort Valley State University thanks to our partnership with Turnaround Columbus,” Hughes said.

Furthermore, Hughes said the project will use 4-H parent education and legal guardian meetings, workforce entry training and group mentoring sessions, to enhance life skills that prepare youths for the future. Family engagement days, another facet of the project, will emphasize the importance of parents and legal guardian’s involvement in youth development.

For more information about FVSU’s Cooperative Extension 4-H Program, contact Woodie Hughes Jr. at (478) 825-6219 or

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