Hello, Valencia County! My name is Sierra Cain, and I am pleased to announce I will be serving as the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development Agent with New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Office. I am very excited to be part of this community.

Sierra Cain

My interest in pursuing this position sparked from interning in the Valencia County Extension office for two summers while I was completing my bachelor’s degree at NMSU. My internship was a great experience and I met the most wonderful people in the community.

In this new position, my primary responsibility is to serve our community, specifically our youth population. Youth development is a large focus for Extension and many of you may already be familiar with our 4-H program. However, Extension provides a number of other school enrichment and after-school programs.

After-school programs and activities including participating on sports team or in the band provide tremendous benefit to youth beyond just filling time. Participation in youth programs and activities help young people improve social skills, develop a strong work ethic, learn new skills and reduce time spent doing other unproductive activities.

According to The Aspen Institute, sports are one of the most popular extracurricular activities in which youth participate. Involvement in sports not only keeps young people physically healthy, but can help in improving behavior and academics in school.

The Aspen Institute reports youth who participate in sports show increased levels of school attendance and increased positive social interaction with their peers. Furthermore, youth show greater focus in the classroom when involved in physical play.

While we may think of sports as an out-of-school activity, the benefits of participation reaches back in to the school system and benefits youth participants in more ways than the physical aspect of the sport.

After-school clubs such as the Boys and Girls Club also offer benefit to youth who participate. Children improve skills in computer technology, arts and crafts, and many other areas. They are 75 percent more likely to be involved in volunteer opportunities, earn higher grades in school and have a 97 percent greater chance of graduating high school.

Music lessons or participation in band also provides huge benefits to youth development. The Arête Music Academy reports students who are involved in music lessons not only have a larger vocabulary, but possess a larger memory compared to those who are not. They also have a reduced rate of tobacco and substance abuse.

Involvement in extracurricular activities is so important for the advancements of our youth and can be beneficial in their personal development. Making sure we support and enroll our youth in these programs will only strengthen our community and help develop our future leaders.

For additional youth development opportunities, please call or visit me at the Valencia County Extension Service, 404 Courthouse Road, in Los Lunas. If you are a teacher and would like your students to benefit from school-enrichment programs, please contact me as we have several programs we would love to offer in your classrooms.

I encourage you to visit our website at valencia.nmsu.edu to learn of summer programs and camps available through the Extension service.

Program announcements

To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 505-565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.

•Beef Cattle Reproduction Anatomy and Endocrinology: 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, Free. Isleta Casino, Rio Bosque Ballroom.

•Extension Association of New Mexico, Boys and Girls Club Presentation: 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 18, free. Belen Masonic Hall.

•Iron Works Fire Revisited: 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, free Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, 2424 N.M. 47.

•Gardening Survival Series, Seed Starting & Soil Preparation: 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, March 21, free. Bosque Farms Public Library, 1466 W. Bosque Loop.

•4-H Annual Dessert and Basket Auction: 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 3, at Bosque Farms Elementary Gym, 1390 W. Bosque Loop, Bosque Farms.

If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.

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Sierra Cain, guest columnist

Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.