University of Arizona Cooperative Extension partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI AZ instructors practice fire suppression

This week at the University of Arizona Campus Agricultural Center in Tucson, the initial delegation of instructors within the Arizona Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Arizona, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the fifteenth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Malisa Grantham, the MyPI Arizona Program Manager and an Assistant in Extension, 4-H Youth Development, “One of the aspects of this exciting opportunity and partnership is that it enables hands-on involvement of our teens and empowers them to be responsible for, not only sharing what they have learned with their families and communities, but also providing service to them as well.  We should all be prepared for a variety of emergencies.  Arizona has not had such an extensive program in place; therefore, this program and the depth of it, was very appealing.”  Added Grantham, “This program will have a tremendous impact across Arizona.  I’m confident that our instructors that have been trained by the MyPI National team, will do a great job training Arizona teenagers to reach families and communities statewide.”

Over the next 12 months, MyPI Arizona 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, regardless of geographic location.  From the large urban areas to the smaller rural towns, emergencies and disasters do not discriminate.  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 Arizona instructors over the next 12 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 Project Director and MyPI Mississippi Program Coordinator. 

Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “While we were in Arizona, we had the opportunity to witness a monsoon and a strong dust storm, which just reemphasized why we teach CERT and preparedness.  I’m excited to see the process and results that this group of MyPI instructors will bring to the state of Arizona.  Arizona teens and communities are in good hands with these strong and passionate group of instructors.”                  

MyPI Arizona 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 began 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 Arizona, Akers stated, “Our MyPI National Coordination team has literally travelled to all corners of the nation with this project and I can confidently say that the MyPI instructors in Arizona have displayed equal levels of passion, engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  As a National training team, we always hope to entertain the level of discussions that clearly project the instructors are thinking long-term.  As the National Project Director, I can assert that this certainly makes administering this program and being a productive program incubator so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  Arizona teens, families, and communities are in for a treat on multiple levels due to the work of these great professionals and preparedness advocates.  Much like their colleagues across the nation, the instructors in Arizona truly exude a passion to change lives and to educate their communities, particularly their teens.  It was indeed a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be here in Arizona this week.  This initial cohort of instructors and Malisa, the Program Manager, 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 and that our program and stakeholders demand.  We are excited about this great partnership with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and look forward to seeing the program become a true statewide outreach campaign.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI Arizona takes root, it will progress and flourish 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 Arizona, 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 change and 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 positive impact for all involved and will continue to work with the instructors, the Program Manager, and community partners to ensure its success over the long-term.”     

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.   

Stacy DeVeau, who serves as the 4-H STEM Senior Program Coordinator and is located in Yavapai County, is among the newly certified MyPI Arizona instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  According to DeVeau, “Responsible teens can be valuable assets in their communities, especially in times of emergency and disaster.  With proper education and training, they can assist their families and neighbors in emergency situations.  MyPI Arizona will empower youth, protect families, assist communities, and develop youth leadership and life skills.  I’m looking forward to being a part of the program as an instructor.  I would encourage others to do the same.  MyPI provides a wonderful opportunity to have a positive impact on youth in our community who will, in turn, strengthen the preparedness of our community in the event of a disaster.”  DeVeau added, “The content in the MyPI curriculum along with the exposure to how it relates to multiple career tracks provides youth with insights into many career path opportunities.  Another example of the program’s great features is the capstone leadership project, PREP+6, which involves each participant in preparing an emergency supply kit and communication plan for their own household and then six other households in doing the same.  This is a great leadership opportunity for teens to make a positive impact in their communities.  While MyPI prepares individuals to protect and prepare themselves and their own families for emergencies, this leadership project results in our students helping other families in their communities to be better prepared.  A prepared family will not take resources away from those in need in the event of an emergency situation.”      

Misti Todd, 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator in Pinal County, agreed with DeVeau.  According to Todd, “Developing youth leaders is one of the core tenets of 4-H.  MyPI Arizona meshes perfectly with our program by providing opportunities for youth to develop these leadership skills, perform community outreach activities, and build relationships within their communities all while learning in a hands-on setting.  Refining these skills through this MyPI Arizona is vital to strengthening our society for the future.”  Todd, who will soon begin planning deliveries in Pinal County added, “The skills taught in this program will last a lifetime.  MyPI is presented in such a way that youth will get a real-life, hands-on look at the events transpiring around them in present day.  MyPI shows them how they can take charge of these situations, empowering them to be agents of change for others.  I would strongly encourage students to apply to be a part of this program.  Recent events concerning natural and man-made disasters have shown us that we cannot rely solely on our local and federal agencies to help us in our times of need.  We all have a role in preparedness.  By completing the MyPI program, our students will be an integral part of helping their families, their neighbors, and others in your community be better prepared in the event of a disaster.” 

Eric Thoutt, 4-H Youth Development Senior Program Coordinator in Cochise County, and Ashley Jeffers-Sample, Assistant Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Pima County, are also among the newly certified MyPI Arizona instructors.  Thoutt stated, “I think teens do want to be involved in their communities and they want to help when they can.  MyPI will give them an avenue to make a real difference in their communities and within their families by helping them to become prepared for a disaster or an emergency.  Professionally, I have experience in disaster preparedness as a former law enforcement officer and volunteer firefighter.  This program helped build my confidence and gave me new ideas on disaster preparedness and was a great update.  MyPI will build the confidence of the youth who become involved, and will help them become leaders in their families and communities.  With this new knowledge and skillset, youth will be able to help their families survive and communities become more resilient.” 

Added Thoutt, “One of the significant features of the program is the PREP+6 service project.  It’s truly a program that gives youth disaster preparedness and leadership skills that are so important today.  PREP+6 really gives the youth the opportunity to help their families and communities become more prepared for any real-life emergency situations.  This is both useful and practical.  PREP+6’s impact is that people in many communities across Arizona will have what they need to survive an emergency or disaster, reducing the effect these types of situations have on local emergency services.  Better prepared communities are better able to help themselves.  Our youth are the key to building more prepared and resilient communities through PREP+6.  I’m happy to be a part of such an engaging and nationally-recognized program.  For all potential MyPI instructors, if your focus is to give youth skills that will boost their confidence, enhance their leadership skills, and make real, practical connections within their communities, this program is it.  One of the basic premises of 4-H is civic engagement.  This program emboldens that.”      

Jeffers-Sample agreed, “MyPI Arizona provides an opportunity for teens to gain ownership in disaster preparedness.  It is important to provide our youth with the necessary skills and knowledge to increase the quality of life for not only themselves but also their families and communities.  MyPI makes sure that teen participants are equipped with the necessary skills and equipment to become leaders in their community.  This program attracts and excites me because it provides opportunities for youth to build their life skills through hands-on, enjoyable opportunities.  Life skills are necessary but are often under-emphasized in our youth’s education system today.  MyPI does an amazing job of teaching a unique curriculum while incorporating and bolstering life skills building.  If I had any advice for students interested in the program, I’d simply suggest ‘DO IT’.  Not only are you going to leave this program more prepared, but you are going to have fun while doing it.  I guarantee that when you graduate from the program, you will be proud of yourself for being able to provide a sense of safety to your family and friends during emergencies and disasters.”   

The partners 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 Arizona, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Arizona website at http://mypiarizona.org or contact Malisa Grantham, MyPI Arizona Program Manager at malisag@email.arizona.edu or 520-621-5316.  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 Arizona” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_AZ” and “@MyPI_National”.