The 4-H Urban Immersion Project – Washington, D.C.
4-H teens in Ohio can experience another side of Washington, D.C. that goes beyond the monuments and museums.
On September 1-4, 10 teens and two adult leaders participated in the 4-H Urban Immersion Experienc in Washington, D.C. The Urban Immersion Project (UIP) is an immersive experience designed to combine cross-cultural learning, teamwork, and service learning in an urban environment. This project included a 4-day service-learning experience that builds skills and abilities that prepare youth for success in the workforce. Interactive cross-cultural activities and challenges throughout the city helped youth build capacity to broaden understanding of cultural and racial differences in people who live in an urban environment. Youth stayed in the Southeast part of the city and were provided opportunities to perform acts of service throughout the city. Youth also learned about the realities and challenges for adults and families who struggle with homelessness and/or live in poverty.
Service projects included a day at “A Wider Circle,” a nonprofit organization with programs to address the needs of adults and children challenged by homelessness, poverty, and substance abuse. Youth participated in the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Program, A Wider Circle’s largest program which provides beds, dressers, tables, chairs, dishes, pots, pans, and other large and small home goods to families transitioning out of shelters, escaping domestic violence, or otherwise living without these basic need items. Youth helped sort and supply the warehouse shelves so families could come and select the items they needed.
Youth also volunteered at SOME (So Others Might Eat) and assembled more than 200 ready-to-go meals to be handed out to those in need. SOME is a whole person care provider working to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through a variety of services. They customize individual care pathways that meet their physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual, and behavioral needs holistically.
During one of the evening programs, two presenters from the National Coalition for the Homeless (NHS) came and shared a meal with the group. They talked about the issue of homelessness, shared personal homelessness stories, and helped the group dispel myths about homelessness. At the end of the presentation, youth were invited to ask questions and engage in dialogue with the speakers. To some, this interactive dialogue session was their favorite part of the immersion experience.
Another part of the experience included city-wide activities that helped teens become familiar with a city map, asking for directions, and the metro system. They got to use their newfound knowledge as they completed a team scavenger hunt around the city. On the final evening of the experience, the group dined at a local Ethiopian restaurant in the U Street/Cardoza neighborhood.
This Urban Immersion Project experience will be offered again in September 2023. New in 2023, 10 youth from Sweden 4-H will join in the experience. The cost of the experience is only $180. This fee includes most meals, program fees, overnight lodging, and transportation.