University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UAEX) and 4-H Youth Development partner with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI AR instructors practice fire suppression

This week at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock, AR, the initial delegation of instructors within the Arkansas Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Arkansas, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the eleventh state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Ashley Dingman, the MyPI Arkansas Program Coordinator and UAEX 4-H Program Associate, “The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and the 4-H Youth Development department wanted to be involved with MyPI because of the immense impact that it will have on our teens and thus our communities and our state.  With Arkansas being a relatively rural state, when our teenagers become trained and in emergency preparedness, imagine the effect that they will have on the resilience of their communities.  Beyond that, imagine the trend of teenagers across Arkansas completing MyPI and becoming adults who volunteer in their communities with emergency response teams.  This program is truly working to make the best better.  One of the critical aspects to remember about MyPI is that this positive impact will be the results of our teens; these 13-19 year olds can and will make a difference in the lives of so many.  Investing in youth really is investing in our future and that is very clear with MyPI, which is working to create a safer and more prepared future through today’s youth.” 

Added Dingman, “MyPI is one of the most well-rounded and complete programs that I have been involved with.  The MyPI National Team is so thorough and ensures that the state is ready and prepared for the instructor training.  However, unlike a lot of programs, this team goes beyond that initial training and is there for support as the program is being carried out within the state.  The curriculum and training ensures that the instructors and teens are knowledgeable and actually prepared to deal with disaster scenarios.  Going beyond the classroom, the students are required to put their curriculum training into action by completing a capstone service project.  All of this is tracked by local program instructors, the MyPI Arkansas Program Coordinator, and even the National team.  The curriculum and projects are challenging yet attainable and allow our youth to do the greatest good for the greatest number of Arkansans.” 

Over the next 18 months, MyPI Arkansas will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities across the state.  This program, based on a national award winning model delivered in Mississippi through the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Citizen Corps, enhances individual, family, and community preparedness for disasters, while at the same time, strengthening youth leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion. “One of the underlying missions of MyPI National is to reboot youth preparedness across this country, to capitalize on the energy of our youth, and to set the new standard for how we engage our teens in sustained preparedness endeavors as we move forward in the face of a variety of threats and hazards that we continue to see on seemingly a daily basis.  We have seen fantastic success for several years in Mississippi and have now begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI Arkansas instructors over the next 18 months, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of this program for years to come, which is yet another very achievable outcome and one that this great state and its citizens, families, and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National and MyPI Mississippi Project Director.  Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “It has been interesting and enjoyable training a neighboring state to Mississippi knowing that they face many of the same types of disasters that we do back home.  This class has given me reason to believe that MyPI has and is making a significant impact on families being better prepared.  I am eager to see the results and positive impact this two-time national award winning program, delivered by these passionate instructors, will have here in Arkansas.” 

MyPI Arkansas is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 18 states and 1 US territory.  MyPI National Phase 1 began by delivering the MyPI model to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  In September of 2017, MyPI National was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness national award for “Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness.”  Capitalizing on program success and momentum, MyPI National received federal funding for a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enabled the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and the first US territory to be represented, Guam.  

Regarding Arkansas, Akers stated, “I know I speak for my entire team when I say that we could not be more excited about the level of passion, engagement, and motivation of the newly certified MyPI Arkansas instructors.  At the National level, it makes our job administering this program so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  Arkansas teens, their families, and their communities are in for a treat on multiple levels.  Much like their colleagues across the nation, the instructors in Arkansas here truly exude a passion and motivation to change lives and to educate their communities, particularly their teens.  It was a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be here this week in Little Rock, working hand in hand with the instructors and with Ashley Dingman, the MyPI Arkansas Program Coordinator during their comprehensive training.  Ashley will prove to be a great asset for our overall program goals and will guide the state program with the motivation and zest that we have come to expect from our program coordinators.  We are excited about this great partnership with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and Arkansas 4-H personnel and volunteers.  I anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI Arkansas takes root, progresses and flourishes across the state in large part because of their efforts and dedication.”

Added Akers, “MyPI offers a tremendous, multi-faceted approach to youth preparedness with rich learning and leadership opportunities for teens and enhanced preparedness levels for families and communities.  There is a definitive focus and energy necessary as we move into the next phase of MyPI Arkansas, where the real work is done and the real impact is seen. On a personal and a professional level, I look forward to seeing these new instructors respond to the challenge and become the catalyst for positive impact.  It is clear from this week, that the instructors have a strong passion for disaster education and preparedness, the development of their youth and safety of their families, and the livelihood of these communities, which is wonderful to see.  We expect a profoundly positive impact for all involved here and will continue to work with the instructors and the Program Coordinator to ensure its success.”     

The MyPI model offers a flexible 5 to 10 week, three component program.  In Component A, teenagers will complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified Teen CERT training and corresponding modules focusing on Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety and Utility Control, Disaster Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue, CERT Organization, Disaster Psychology, and Terrorism and CERT.  In Component B, the Add-On Catalog features certification in CPR and AED usage, along with a technology track comprised of awareness programs focusing on HAM Radio, NOAA Weather Radio, Smoke Alarm Maintenance, and Smart Phone App and Social Media in Emergency Preparedness.  The Add-On Catalog also includes a Disaster simulation, and a Career Track that focuses on public safety, fire service, and emergency management careers.  The final element of the program, Component C, includes a comprehensive family and community service project entitled PREP + 6 in which each participant helps develop emergency supply kits and emergency communication plans for their family AND 6 additional families or households. This component allows for significant enhancement in individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience.  To graduate from the program, students must complete all components.   

Sarah Enoch, who serves as County Extension Agent in Logan County, is among the newly certified MyPI Arkansas instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  Enoch’s message about the program is simple, “Listening to the news on a daily basis, we hear about disasters, both natural and man-made, that happen in communities just like ours.  It’s overwhelming and could easily cause us to live in a spirit of fear.  Being proactive by preparing for the worst will help us live our lives with confidence; if there is a disaster, we will know what to do.  Participating in MyPI will give you the knowledge and tools to prepare and respond to such situations.  I strongly encourage our youth to participate in MyPI Arkansas.”

According to Elizabeth Easley, another newly certified MyPI Arkansas instructor who serves as Extension 4-H Agent in Mississippi County for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, “MyPI is an excellent program that uses the power of youth to help prepare communities across the state for the next disaster.  We all have a role in preparing for emergencies and disasters and in keep our communities safe.  Teens in MyPI develop life skills that will directly impact our communities by saving lives.  In the initial offerings of MyPI, 125 Arkansas teens will build leadership skills by working with 875 households in developing emergency supply kits and family communication plans.  You cannot place a value on how much that will help their families, neighbors, and communities during the next emergency situation.”

As the program develops and grows throughout Arkansas, MyPI fosters multiple local and state level partnerships with youth serving agencies, first responders, emergency management personnel, etc.  Gary Ragen, Homeland Security Program Coordinator and State Citizen Corps Coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, is a strong advocate for the program.  According to Ragen, “MyPI is an excellent community-based program that will greatly enhance current efforts through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to engage youth at the local level in our community preparedness initiatives to provide citizen awareness, education, and basic response training.  As an emergency management administrator and professional responder, I particularly appreciate the use of FEMA’s CERT curriculum as the standard for initial response training.  I look forward to working with the MyPI program and the Arkansas 4-H Youth Development program.”

The partnering states in MyPI National are replicating the model created and delivered in Mississippi.  In 2014, the Mississippi Youth Preparedness Initiative was named FEMA’s national award winner for Outstanding Youth Preparedness program. It also received an Honorable Mention recognition for “Preparing the Whole Community.” In 2015, MyPI Mississippi was named one of the first entities to be named an official Affirmer of the new National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education. As such, MyPI is an engaged and recognized component of a nationally supported, progressive approach to preparing youth for emergencies and disasters.  MyPI National is also recognized as an Affirmer of the national strategy.

For additional information regarding MyPI Arkansas, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Arkansas website at http://mypiarkansas.org or contact Ashley Dingman, MyPI Arkansas Program Coordinator at adingman@uaex.edu or 501-671-2270.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at http://mypinational.extension.msstate.edu or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director at cra20@msstate.edu or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching My PI Arkansas and My PI National respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching @MyPI_AR and @MyPI_National.