Texas A&M Announces New Office For Youth Engagement
Texas A&M University has established a new office dedicated to youth camps and programming to expand its existing youth engagement efforts.
The new Office for Youth Engagement will provide support to colleges, schools and units currently operating youth programs and work to enable the development of new programming to meet emerging needs. Texas A&M’s youth programs have been an entry point for many children to nurture a love of lifelong learning, and many participants become prospective Aggies, said Susan Ballabina, chief external affairs officer and senior vice president for academic and strategic collaborations.
“This new office will not only make it easier for community members to find and choose the programs that best support their children’s interests and needs, but provide our faculty and staff with more support to continue enhancing these programs,” Ballabina said.
During her State of the University address, Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks highlighted the importance of connectivity with the state, nation and world.
“As we look at how Texas A&M is remaining relevant, creating opportunity and influencing society in new and meaningful ways, the Office for Youth Engagement enables us to connect with the community and fulfill our land-grant mission,” Banks said. “By opening our doors to children and their families through coordinated youth programming efforts, we are providing yet another gateway to Texas A&M and paving the way for future Aggies.”
Stephanie Burns, the office’s director, said parents across the state and beyond look to Texas A&M as a destination for their children to have one-of-a-kind educational experiences with top professors and subject matter experts. When students participate in these camps and programs, she said, they should also be getting the information they need to be qualified college applicants.
Burns said the office will take a new approach that serves youth not just when they come to College Station for a camp, but after they leave. She said families should see the office as a resource after their child leaves campus – and by supporting those students as they explore post-secondary options, they will hopefully consider attending Texas A&M.
“When a student participates in an activity at Texas A&M, whether that student is 5 or 15, they should walk away knowing that college is possible and knowing what they can do today to get prepared,” Burns said. “I am excited to lead this new Office for Youth Engagement as we work with faculty and staff to make sure this is true for every student we serve.”
A main objective in the office’s first year will be cataloging the university’s youth programs and creating a central database to serve as a community resource. Over time, the university will develop a system to track how the students’ experiences in university youth programs affect their education and career plans.
In the next six months, the Office for Youth Engagement will also work with program directors and camp staff to learn how best to support them, Burns said.
“We’re looking to connect with departments and units across the university to understand what’s working for them and where we can add value to the amazing programs they already offer. At the same time, we’re thinking about what happens after camp and how we can start creating communications tailored to kids and their families to continue their journey with Texas A&M,” Burns said.
Youth engagement extends beyond just camps, Burns said. Another priority of the office is creating curriculum about college accessibility, specifically for eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders. The goal is to eventually make those resources available for students K-12 who participate in activities at A&M.
The office is collaborating with Visitor Experience to expand the audience of Aggieland Saturday – upcoming on Feb. 11 – the biggest single-day open house for the university. While the event has always been open to the public, for the first time in the event’s history, there are plans to launch pre-recruitment programming this year for seventh-10th graders and their families to learn about post-secondary education opportunities, Burns said.
Marlene Dixon, a professor and interim chair of the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, said the new office is important in that it will approach youth engagement from a more intentional perspective.
“It allows us to consider how we might infuse youth programs with theoretically sound elements that enhance their impact and how we can transfer learning across a wide range of youth initiatives to transform a whole generation,” Dixon said.
Learn more about the Office for Youth Engagement at collaborations.tamu.edu/youthengagement.