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New Mexico State University

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Becker Receives 4-H Youth at Risk Award for Teen Get-Away

LAS CRUCES -- Kimberly Becker, 4-H agriculture agent with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service, saw a need to reach troubled youth in Sandoval County who were just beginning to become involved in gang-like activities. Now the National 4-H Council is recognizing her success in filling that need with the Teen Get-Away program.


Becker recently received the Capacity to Care Youth at Risk Recognition Award from the National 4-H Council. She will receive a $1,000 check and certificate at the National 4-H Association conference in November for her innovative work with youth in at-risk environments.

In 1995, Becker approached school officials, local law enforcement and the New Mexico National Guard to help create a program aimed at borderline troubled youth entering junior high. That year, 12 students were selected for the first Teen Get-Away.

"The program was designed to increase the students' self-esteem, self-confidence, teamwork abilities and communication skills through outdoor activities," Becker said. "It's also used to present alternatives to gang involvement."

The three-day event included an adventure-based teamwork program sponsored by 4-H, a tower repelling session sponsored by the National Guard to overcome fears and build trust in adults, and a tour of the Bernalillo police department and Sandoval County jail to demonstrate arrest procedures. An ex-gang member also spoke with the youth about how and why they should avoid gang involvement.

After the program, the participants evaluated the various activities and analyzed their reactions in each situation. "The purpose of these discussions wasn't just for fun, but so the youth would think and analyze themselves," Becker said. "We want them to use what they have learned to handle pressure situations at school."

Becker has written two grant proposals to allow more youth to participate in the Teen Get-Away and to offer the program year-round.