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  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
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By Melissa Jo Hill
On Thursday, April 2, CCE Broome County’s CITIZEN U, RootED, and 4-H UNITY (Urban Neighborhoods Improved Through Youth) teamed  up with Binghamton City School District and Union-Endicott Central School District to support the social emotional well-being of young children during the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing 3,000 “Be the Spark Coloring and Activity Book 2020” at all of the “Grab & Go” meal sites in Binghamton and Endicott.

“Be the Spark” was created the CITIZEN U Teen Leaders in 2018 to raise awareness about the importance of good mental health and provide young people with a healthy outlet for social-emotional well-being.

Faced with the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing, but still wanting to do something to help their communities, the CITIZEN U and 4-H UNITY Teen Leaders came together on a Zoom meeting and decided to see if “Be the Spark” could be distributed at the “Grab & Go” meal sites in Binghamton and Endicott. CITIZEN U and 4-H UNITY are civic engagement and workforce development programs operating by CCE Broome County’s 4-H youth development team.

The answer was an enthusiastic yes! Through CCE Broome’s existing partnership with Binghamton City School District’s Empire State Afterschool Program, RootED and 4-H UNITY’s partnership with Union-Endicott Central School District, distribution of the coloring and activity books began on April 2 and will continue until the supply is exhausted.

“We’re very proud of the Teen Leaders in CITIZEN U, who originally created the books in 2018 to address what they saw as a need in our community to improve the mental health and well-being of young people—and doubly proud of CITIZEN U and 4-H UNITY when they had the idea to update and distribute the books now to help children coping with the emotional stress of the pandemic,” said June Mead, program lead at CCE Broome County.

For extension staff and youth in other regions, Broome County has generously made the activity book is available as a printable PDF.

To learn more about 4-H opportunities for youth development and empowerment, visit nys4-h.org or contact your local CCE office.

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