Brooke WVU Extension Service organizing healthy activities for students

GROUP EFFORT — Students at Brooke Middle School and Brooke High School teamed to plant a garden at the school, one of many activities coordinated by the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service. -- Contributed

WELLSBURG — Grants from the West Virginia University Extension Service have enabled the Brooke County 4-H program to organize a variety of activities for members and students at local schools.

Candy Taylor, mentoring coordinator for the extension service’s Wellsburg office, said a recent Paint and Snack session at Brooke Middle School was the latest of six family-centered events supported by the grant from the extension service’s Heath Rocks! program.

She said the program’s aim is to deter use of alcohol, e-cigarettes, vapes and other drug use by encouraging them to pursue alternative activities with their families and as individuals and engaging them in projects in which they have an opportunity to develop confidence as leaders.

Taylor said nearly 70 students, parents and extension and school staff gathered at Brooke Middle School to partake of snacks and to try creating a Christmas-themed painting under the direction of representatives of Moe’s on Main, a Follansbee craft store.

She noted participants included Brooke County Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Crook, Deputy Superintendent Corey Murphy and Jennifer Sisinni, the school’s head principal.

“They sat with the kids and shared their own experiences of painting in the past,” she said.

Taylor said the Brooke County office’s first Health Rocks! grant was awarded two years ago. She had undergone training in Washington, D.C., just before the pandemic led officials to halt in-school instruction throughout the state.

For a while, she and other Extension staff used social media and video conferencing to engage youth in activities ranging from dance instruction to sharing recipes their youthful viewers could try at home.

They also distributed packets with card games, materials for science experiments and other activities the youth could do with their families.

“We had a lot of different things going on during that time, but it’s been fun to see them face to face again,” said Taylor.

As school buildings were reopened to students, she explained that she and other Extension staff worked with principals and teachers to organize various recreational activities and community service projects.

“We’re back in the schools and getting a lot of interest,” said Taylor.

She said 4-H clubs at Brooke Middle School and the Brooke Bridge Alternative Learning Center planted gardens at each school, often working with older students from Brooke High School.

Taylor noted students in the National Honor Society worked with members of the Brooke Middle School 4-H Club, which is advised by Dana Stoll.

The alternative learning center was established by the Brooke County School District for students who don’t function as well in a traditional school setting.

With the cooperation of Michael Lewis, its director, students there built two blessing boxes in which individuals may leave nonperishable food and toiletries for individuals in need.

Similar to Little Libraries, where used books can be deposited and picked up by community members, the blessing boxes can be found near the Brooke County Public Library and Unity Apartments.

Taylor added the grant enabled the Extension service to purchase bicycles and pedometers used by students to track their mileage during group excursions within the city.

She noted 4-H clubs are open to youth age 5 and up. While there are chapters at some colleges, older members often “graduate” into volunteers within the clubs, which can be a valuable experience in leadership.

Taylor said in addition to the clubs at Brooke Middle School and Brooke Bridge, there are chapters in Follansbee and Wellsburg that meet outside school.

“We’re trying to expand. We’re hoping to have a club in every school,” she said.

Taylor noted the Brooke County 4-H program once had a shooting team that participated in state competitions, adding there’s interest in reviving it if a suitable adviser can be found.

Currently, there are plans for club outings to Brooke Lanes and the Weirton Plaza Theater, among other activities.

“We keep them busy. That’s for sure,” said Taylor.

For information about the Brooke County 4-H program, call (304) 737-3666 or visit its website at https://extension.wvu.edu/brooke.


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