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4-H Tech Wizards is an after school/summer program that capitalizes on youth interest in cutting edge science, engineering, and technology as a way to engage low-income Latino youth in (a) learning basic life and workforce skills and (b) aspiring to postsecondary education, productive jobs and careers, and community engagement. Through small group mentoring, youth develop skills in web development, video and podcast production, GIS/GPS spatial technologies, Lego and Vex robotics, and emerging technologies through real-world experiences related to jobs, careers, and service.
The real-world learning experiences have included using GIS/GPS technology to map the locations of trained CERT (Community Emergency Response Team, a FEMA-approved disaster response certification) volunteers so the local fire department could identify areas where more training was needed. Tech Wizards went on to participate in a CERT training program and helped transfer the knowledge they gained to Spanish-speaking families and communities. Also, as part of a long term service-learning project, Tech Wizards used GIS/GPS to help their city locate, measure, and inventory 12,000 street trees to qualify as a “Tree City USA”. Tech Wizards have also contributed to the liveability of their community by using a variety of web-based tools to digitally asses, restore, and maintain the health of local watersheds.
The 4-H Tech Wizards program began in Washington County, Oregon, one of the first sites involved in the Oregon 4-H Latino Outreach Project. Major partners included Intel Oregon and Centro Cultural (a community resource center for Latinos). In nine years of delivery
- 95% of Tech Wizards completed at least two years of the three-year program and acquired proficiency in nearly 100 technological competencies.
- 85% annually accumulated 15 hours of service learning by applying their technological skills to real-world situations related to their technological learning.
- 95% graduated high school, nearly double the graduation rate of Latino students statewide.
- 70% pursued postsecondary education.
4-H Tech Wizards was designated as a National 4-H Program of Distinction in 2007 and presented an Annie E. Casey Family Strengthening Award in 2008. With the support of program staff, Tech Wizard youth have made presentations at more than ten state, national, and international conferences. A particular highlight involved a small group of Tech Wizards who were invited to Santiago, Chile. While there, they taught 40 Chilean youth how to use GIS and complete a project that became part of a presentation they made at the ESRI South American GIS-User Conference.
The 4-H Tech Wizards program is adaptable to a variety of audiences and locations. In 2010, Tech Wizards was one of three 4-H programs in the country chosen to be replicated nationwide by the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenille Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The local project staff currently working with the Washington County 4-H Tech Wizards recently trained representatives from 23 universities to implement the program.