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Children, Youth and Families Programs


University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) developed Bootstraps, a high-risk youth program that helps teens return to school and/or gain meaningful work.


With a tighter job market, more experience and skills are becoming necessary to succeed. The transition to adulthood is a challenging time for teens. It is even more challenging for disenfranchised youth from rural, limited-resource families. Nevada has one of the highest rates in the nation of youth who are not successfully making the transition to either further education or work.

Bootstraps, a two-year-old UNCE program, targets high-risk young adults, 18-21 years of age, who are not in school or working. Research supports the need for targeting families that have the least financial resources and family support to help teens prepare for the world of work. The most vulnerable families are those headed by low-income, single females.

What Has Been Done:

The program combines work with interactive classroom instruction on life skills and career counseling. An adult job coach directs the natural resource field work. Real experiences on the job are used by the job coach to reinforce the life and social skills introduced during "school."

The teens participate in intensive safety/survival training to prepare them for physically demanding work at the isolated, mountain job sites. The work requires the ability to use hand tools and power tools including chain saws.

A pilot program with 10 teens was highly successful in teaching life skills and providing an opportunity for youth to exercise those skills in a work environment. Each work week began with five hours of instruction that includes team building, peer relations, goal setting, problem solving, self-responsibility, decision-making, resume writing, communication skills and Internet job searches. Participants are paid for a 40-hour work week that includes overnight camping at the job site. The teens are responsible for purchasing and preparing food for the week while in the field.

After the weekly classes, the group worked on environmental jobs on Nevada’s public lands, completing projects to improve wildlife habitat in remote areas of Nevada including building wildlife habitat enclosures and removing or thinning undesirable vegetation.

The Battle Mountain program doubled its field season to six months in 2007 and the crew increased to 12 individuals. The Tonopah program graduates two crews of five or six with each crew working for three months. Each program graduated 11 in 2007.

The Tonopah crew mapped and treated more than 545,000 acres of weed infestations in 2007, treating 100 acres with herbicides and monitoring the post-treatment of 1,650 acres throughout public land in five counties. The 2008 Tonopah crew completed a 12-week course that consisted of safety and technical training and fieldwork coupled with classroom time. The Battle Mountain crew helped remove pinion and juniper encroaching on sagebrush ecosystem in the Fish Creek Mountains in Lander County.

A $640,000 CSREES grant has been added to existing BLM funding to implement Bootstraps in Tonopah for the next five years where field work focuses on noxious weed control. A mentoring component will be added to the program as a follow-up for Bootstraps graduates, as well as increasing the educational outreach to participants’ families.


Bootstraps has impacted many young adults by teaching valuable skills necessary in the job market. They include chainsaw use, safety maintenance, pesticide application techniques and safety, emergency communications, BLM dispatch, satellite phones, off-road driving and many more.

Intense problem solving, diligence and continuous assessment during the first year in Tonopah resulted in a second season that is running smoothly and demonstrating impact in both human development and natural resources management. The crews have accomplished more work than expected by the BLM during the first three years of the project. As a result of the program’s success, participants have successfully entered the workforce or returned to school.

Important changes were noted in those who completed the program. During the life skills classes, participants completed portfolio tasks that were scored using a rubric designed for the program. Before the program started, most youth demonstrated an "emerging level" of development on the rubric and were able to move to a “developing level.” Several of the students demonstrated a “mature level,” the highest on the 5-point scale.

The job coach observed and evaluated each Bootstraps participant/member on 11 work-related behaviors ranging from problem-solving skills to safety and attitude. All program participants showed significant growth in these areas over the course of the program.

During 2006, a qualitative follow-up study of Bootstraps graduates was implemented that tracks their progress each year over a five-year period. Analysis of the one-year follow-up interviews revealed the following general themes.


Bureau of Land Management, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, CSREES

Contacts: Marilyn Smith, Area Youth Development Specialist, 775-738-1990

Children, Youth and Families Programs

Programs Program Information

4-H Afterschool

All children face risks as they grow and develop, but children who live in low-income housing or are homeless may be at higher risk for participating in risky behaviors. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) developed the 4-H After School Club (ASC) to teach children basic life skills including math, reading, science, positive communication, goal setting, self-responsibility, decision-making and good nutrition. Youth who have these life skills are less likely to participate in risky behaviors.

4-H Youth Development

4-H is a community of young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.

All 4 Kids

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s All 4 Kids: Healthy, Happy, Active, Fit program is an interdisciplinary approach to addressing child obesity. Developed by Cooperative Extension faculty from maternal/child nutrition, exercise physiology and child development, the All 4 Kids program helps children meet the Nevada Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) Standards while encouraging preschool children and families to practice healthy eating habits and be active every day.


University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) developed Bootstraps, a high-risk youth program that helps teens return to school and/or gain meaningful work.

Calming the Waters: Learning to Manage Western Water Conflict

Conflict has surrounded the Truckee, Carson and Walker River Basins for decades. Key issues include historical use on tribal lands, historical and current water rights, threats to water quality, and wildlife habitat protection. This program teaches youth about Nevada’s water issues and helps them develop the skills needed to address future water conflicts.

Career Edge: Teens Taking Charge of Their Future! A Workforce Readiness Program

The Career Edge: Teens Taking Charge of Their Future! A workforce readiness program for high school students focused on skill development for workplace and job success. Career Edge helps high school students prepare to get their first "paying" job while working toward their dream job or career. Career Edge provides information and training on interview skills, résumé development, filling out applications, finding job leads and selecting appropriate clothing for the workplace. In addition, many "soft skills" needed in the workplace such as decision-making, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership are integrated throughout the program.

Churchill County Community Readiness Network

Nevada communities need rapid access to information during an emergency. In an effort to enhance community preparedness, safety and available resources and by using GPS and GIS mapping, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s 4-H youth and adult leaders in Churchill County are working with community emergency managers to address evacuation and shelter mapping.

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

Exploring Your True Colors: Building an Effective Team & Team Development Course

Team Development Course

Family Storyteller Literacy Program

National award-winning Family Storyteller is a literacy program aimed at encouraging and training parents to play a vital role in the literacy development of their children. Developed by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), KNPB-TV, the Washoe County libraries and Washoe County School District, the statewide program creates an opportunity for parents and young children to interact around literacy and language activities. Family Storyteller is designed especially for families that may have limited language skills and few children’s books at home.

Fun To Play

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Fun To Play program targets families where, due to the young age, inexperience or limited resources of the parents, young children are placed at-risk for developmental delays and later school difficulties. Fun To Play is a series of weekly infant/child sessions aimed at improving the parenting skills of young parents by increasing the amount of learning activities and interaction they provide their children.

Heart & Shield: Rural Domestic Violence Prevention Program

Young girls making collages with magazine pictures

Keeping Kids Safe: Recognizing, Reporting and Responding to Child Maltreatment

young girl sitting at desk in empty classroom

Little Books and Little Cooks

Children scooping soil from a wheelbarrow into a carton

Nevada State GEAR UP

Partners in Parenting

Partners in Parenting promotes positive parenting and child health and development, thereby preventing child abuse and other poor childhood outcomes.

Project MAGIC

Project MAGIC is an innovative, collaborative program designed to help juvenile offenders leave the criminal justice system and become productive members of society. While participating in the program, young people ages 12 to 18 learn: positive communication skills, team building, problem solving and decision making, self-responsibility, conflict resolution, aspiration building and goal setting. Youth also select and conduct a service project designed to benefit their community. Parent sessions include the same life skills.

Youth for the Quality Care of Animals

4-H members showing pigs