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Extension > Extension in your Community > Rock > 4-H > Articles > Notes from Minnesota 4-H director Jennifer A. Skuza

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Notes from Minnesota 4-H director Jennifer A. Skuza

photo of Jennifer A. Skuza

Dear 4-H youth, families, and volunteers,

I want to acknowledge the grief and outrage that many of us are feeling about the tragic killing of Mr. George Floyd. My daughter was born in a hospital just blocks from where Mr. Floyd died and my family lived in a nearby Minneapolis neighborhood for over 18 years. My heart is heavy. My thoughts are with his loved ones and friends. And my resolve is for the people of Minnesota who are mourning and grappling with injustice in our community and beyond. This tragedy affects us all.

In the days directly after Mr. Floyd’s killing and the subsequent uprising, my family helped clean Lake Street as an expression of our grief and desire for a safer community for all. The outpouring of everyday people sweeping sidewalks, scrubbing off spray paint, donating food, directing traffic, distributing supplies, boarding up windows, building memorials and creating art was beauty in this otherwise haunting time.

When bad things happen, we have a choice to make. We can either wait for it to pass and go back to our normal way of being, or we can find our role in ensuring that it never happens again. I’m doing what I can to lead in rebuilding and creating real and lasting systemic change.

In this painful time, I think about the essence of youth development and the privilege we have to do this work with compassion and humility. We have the opportunity to support and follow youth as they become positive change makers in this world. That starts by knowing ourselves and how our identities, biases and behaviors affect the way we engage with others.

4-H is committed to helping young people develop a mindset of being responsible for themselves, their communities and the world. This work includes developing that same mindset in ourselves as staff, volunteers and other caring adults. Every single young person deserves to be seen, valued and heard. They need us to listen and learn, and to challenge the inequities they see and experience.  It is also our responsibility to partner with youth and help them grow into the leaders we desperately need.

Please take a look at some of the following tools, which we are finding helpful. And keep moving forward. Let’s work together to ensure Minnesota is a place where all young people can thrive.

Dr. Jennifer A. Skuza
Associate dean & state 4-H director
Extension Center for Youth Development

Resources about youth trauma, race and racialized violence

Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health’s Discussing Traumatic Events with Youth links to abundant articles and how-to guides.

Center for Racial Justice in Education’s Resources for Talking With Kids About Race, Racism, and Racialized Violence includes recorded interviews, articles and affinity spaces.

Extension Center for Family Development’s page on historical trauma and cultural healing offers an informative video and discussion questions.