In the midst of a global pandemic, Wayne County, Mich., 4-H volunteer Dr. Teena Chopra and her 4-H member daughter Simran dive head first into 4-H.
In 2019, Teena Chopra, MD, MPH, registered her daughter Simran as a Michigan 4-H Cloverbud member in Wayne County. An initiative of Michigan State University Extension, Michigan 4-H is the state’s largest youth development program and Cloverbuds are its youngest members: young people between the ages of 5 and 7. Cloverbuds participate in many of the same programs as older 4-Hs, but focus on participating and learning outside of a competitive environment. After a year of involvement, Teena and Simran were having so much fun that Teena decided to become a 4-H volunteer.
“I have mentored a lot of high school students in Detroit,” Teena said. “Working with them allowed me to better understand the gaps and needs of this community. That’s when I decided to give my time.
Teena, who is an infectious disease specialist, officially became a Michigan 4-H volunteer in February 2020, on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic ravaged the state and the world, Teen was on the front lines and was recently recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of their health heroes for 2021. Invented the “Covid-19 Explainer-in Chief ”for her role as director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Detroit Medical Center, the recognition applauds much of Teena’s hard work throughout the pandemic.
Despite her busy schedule and demanding role during a year of great uncertainty, neither Teena nor Simran was discouraged from committing to 4-H. Instead, they recognized that tough times created a need for programs that would keep young people energized and engaged and they went above and beyond to fill it. Having passed on her own passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and community service to her daughter, Teena attributes much of her motivation and involvement in 4-H to supporting Simran’s work and interests. .
“Simran loved to share her joy of reading with others and that’s how she started getting involved in community service,” Teena said. “She started collecting books and named her campaign Building Bridges through Books, which has become [the creation of] Building bridges through STEM.
Building Bridges through STEM is the new virtual club launched by Simran and Teena. At the start of the pandemic, Simran failed to see and interact with his friends and peers. With Teena’s help as a volunteer, Simran started the club, which meets every weekend and features different speakers from various STEM fields who share their knowledge about the field and how they got to where they are. in their career. This popular club now has 30 members, some of whom reside outside Michigan. It also created some unique opportunities for Simran, including being invited to discuss the club in several episodes of the Toronto Student Media Network podcast.
“I feel like I’ve inspired my club members to love STEM through the weekly sessions,” Simran said. “We look forward to a new journey into the world of STEM every week. When I surveyed my club members for their feedback, 90% said the club sparked their interest in STEM fields and more and more people wanted to pursue STEM fields in the future. I envision that my club will continue to grow and build bridges between the young people of today. “
In addition to starting a new club, Teena and Simran have also released educational videos on proper handwashing and mask-wearing techniques during the pandemic. Originally created for Simran’s school, the couple shared them with the 4-H community to provide simple but essential COVID-19 advice in an easy-to-consume format. Teena and Simran’s community service efforts also include raising funds and materials for various 4-H and school readers, donating touchscreen tablets to the Wayne County 4-H program, and providing educational materials on a healthy lifestyle, which is one of the Simran 4-H project areas.
“It has been very rewarding to see how our work has impacted others in the community,” Teena said. “We acquired a second family at 4-H, experienced such kindness and were greeted by other members, volunteers and staff. “
In Wayne County, the 4-H community is grateful for all the two have accomplished in such a short time and for their many contributions to the local program.
“I really love that Teena and Simran are part of our Wayne County 4-H community,” said Milaina McCann, Wayne County MSU Extension 4-H Program Coordinator. “You can really see how much Teena loves the voice of young people and the recognition of young people. As a 4-H parent and 4-H volunteer, she allows Simran and other 4-H youth to explore their interests, develop their ideas and showcase their skills. Every project, from STEM to community service, has been selected and led by young people. Teena and Simran are an excellent reflection of 4-H’s young adult partnerships.
To learn more about Michigan 4-H and how you can get involved as a 4-H youth or volunteer, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu.
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