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Peer Mentor Training Toolkit for 4-H/Extension Agents   arrow


During the August 2019 RAM Tour, CSU College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Lise Youngblade learned about a peer mentoring program 4-H youth and CSU Extension Agent Kaycee Manuppella were developing in Garfield County, Colorado.  Dean Youngblade, along with many others in attendance, were incredibly moved and inspired by the mentoring model they envisioned that was based on inclusive practices pairing typically developing youth with peers who have disabilities called the Community of Kids Peer Mentor Program.  Upon returning to CSU, Dean Youngblade connected Kaycee with CSU faculty in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Drs. Susan Hepburn, Jen Krafchick, and Toni Zimmerman to bring their expertise to support the development of the Community of Kids program and train mentors. Graduate and undergraduate students from the department also joined the team including Dr. Amy Smith (PhD, May 2020, Applied Developmental Science), and Breelynn Frank (B.S., May 2020, Human Development & Family Studies).  Together the faculty and students from HDFS partnered with CSU Extension’s Garfield County 4-H Agent, Kaycee Manuppella to train Peer Mentors in the Garfield County 4-H program in February 2020.  This training was designed and developed specifically for the 14-18-year-olds who will be paired as mentors (“buddies” to local peers who have disabilities). This partnership blended the expertise of  HDFS faculty with the needs identified by local youth in Garfield County.

Community of Kids Peer Mentor Program

A small group of 4-H youth from Garfield County, Colorado began making plans early in the year to attend the 2019 Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) in Washington, DC. Under the supervision and direction of Kaycee Manuppella, 4-H STEM Agent in Garfield County, the youth were charged with creating a community action plan during their time as delegates to CWF. Gaining inspiration from one of their own members, this delegation designed a peer mentor program with specific focus on seeking mentees who face barriers in their lives. Their passion and vision served as the foundation for the Community of Kids. As a youth driven initiative, the delegates themselves became the group’s first mentors, informing and guiding next steps.

The mentee target audience originated as high school students in Garfield County, particularly those who face barriers, including physical, socio-emotional, and financial challenges in their lives. As planning evolved, middle school students were added to the target mentee audience. Additional mentors needed to be added to the original group of delegates in order to ensure sustainability. Mentors were designated to be high school students in order to provide the opportunity for mentors to be a year or two older than potential mentees. As the vision of Community of Kids continued to be realized, it became evident that there would be a need for a structure of support and guidance to be provided to the mentors. Among the group of original CWF delegates, half of them (4) were high school seniors or college students. They were natural leaders within the group of mentors, and together the youth designated the older group as ambassadors. The ambassadors would serve as mentors to the mentors, and each would be assigned a small group of mentor and mentee pairs in order to facilitate successful activities and relationships among the group. Finally, the youth are supervised by adult volunteers and staff. 4-H volunteers serve as Project Advisors and 4-H staff serve to ensure oversight within the county’s program goals and guidance.

CSU Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) collaboration

Dean Youngblade connected Kaycee with faculty in HDFS with relevant expertise who could provide consultation on the Community of Kids.  Drs. Krafchick, Zimmerman, and colleagues developed and operate CSU’s award-winning Campus Connections Youth Mentoring program that runs at CSU and four other university campuses. Dr. Hepburn is a national expert on promoting resilience in families of persons with developmental differences or disorders, including Autism.

After meeting with Kaycee and planning this collaboration, Drs. Hepburn, Krafchick, and Zimmerman provided support to then doctoral candidate Amy Smith and undergraduate student Breelynn Frank in the development and delivery of this day long training on February 15th, 2020 in Garfield County. Smith brought over four years of experience with the Campus Connections Youth Mentoring program and many other experiences both educational and clinical working with youth of diverse backgrounds and abilities. She completed her doctorate in Applied Developmental Studies in Human Development and Family Studies in May 2020. Since earning her PhD, Smith has begun a position as a mental health evaluator with the State of Colorado Office of Behavioral Health. Breelynn Frank graduated with her BS in HDFS with a minor in Gerontology in May 2020.  At CSU, Frank served as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Susan Hepburn beginning in 2017 in assisting with Dr. Hepburn’s research on autism spectrum disorder and plans to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy.  Frank also served as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Deborah Fidler in Fidler’s Developmental Disabilities Research Lab on Down syndrome. Frank spent 11 years as a member of 4-H in Yuma County while competing at the local, state and national level in various projects and contests. She also has interned at Elderhaus, a Fort Collins adult day program for people with disabilities, and presented a national broadcasted educational seminar about varying disabilities for Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority during her time at Colorado State University.

Training Materials and Resources for Youth Development Professionals Leading Inclusive Youth Mentoring Programs

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Please note:  The documents below provide content necessary for a day long training with youth who will serve as peer mentors to younger youth who have experienced challenges. This information is available to 4-H / Extension Agents to use with their programming.  For further consultation, please contact Drs. Hepburn, Krafchick, or Zimmerman.  Their contact information is included below.  Some of the resources are developed specifically for this training by the team involved in this project.  Other materials are open source and available on the internet.  We are grateful for the availability of resources from other mentoring programs and services for people with disabilities. 









Mentoring questions?
Dr. Jen Krafchick
Dr. Toni Zimmerman 
Disability related questions?
Dr. Susan Hepburn