By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Lansing woman is one of 12 people honored recently as Champions of Change at the White House for their work with 4-H and FFA.
Kea Norrell Boyd works as a Wayne County 4-H Mentoring Program educator through Michigan State University extension’s Children & Youth Institute. She and 11 other honorees gathered in Washington, D.C., in October to share their stories with federal officials and 4-H and FFA members around the world.
Norrell Boyd said being honored at the White House “was unbelievable. I never thought it could happen to me. I do this work because I love it … because I want to help the young people and families in the program. I don’t do it to receive recognition.”
She said she accepted the award on behalf of all of the directors and staff with whom she works. Norrell Boyd has devoted her career to advocating for disadvantaged youth in Detroit and has spent the last 6.5 years expanding the 4-H Mentoring Program to provide at-risk youth with positive adult role models.
She is a co-coach for the extension statewide Mentoring Team and served as co-author for the Ready to Go: A Mentor Training Toolkit curriculum project. Through the mentoring program, she and her team work to decrease delinquency and truancy and increase academics of youth ages 10-17. They serve more than 300 youths annually.
In expanding the program, Norrell Boyd said she realized offering caring adult mentors to at-risk youths was helpful, but it only addresses one of many challenges.
“I began to notice that the young people in the mentoring program also needed tutoring, Individual Education Plans, individual/family counseling, anger management, housing referrals, food, clothing and assistance with utilities,” she said. “I proposed to offer a 4-H mentoring program that went above and beyond the mentoring relationship, but also focused on the whole family and the community.
“The Wayne County 4-H Mentoring Program now conducts home visits in which trained staff members assist participating families in identifying community resources to empower the whole unit – child, family, neighborhood and community.
“It’s a prevention program,” Norrell Boyd said. “We’re in partnership with the Wayne County Children and Family Services within the prevention department. We try to provide prevention services through mentoring.”
She has been interested in social work and helping others since she was a child. “Both of my parents are retired educators. They have a very giving spirit. It began with wanting to model my parents and their passion of helping people and giving back. That was instilled in me at a very young age. I wanted to choose a profession that allows me to do what I love,” she said.
Of her trip to the White House, she said, “it was a wonderful experience. It was amazing to have a presence there.”
The group enjoyed a tour and participated in a panel about their programs and breakout sessions, which focused on themes of service and volunteerism.
“The members of 4-H and FFA are shining examples of the positive change young Americans are bringing across the country,” said Jon Carson, deputy assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Engagement. “Today we are not only celebrating the work of students having an impact on their communities, but we’re also honoring the mentors and teachers who are fostering these leadership skills in the youth of today.”