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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Adventure Central is the place to be!

Adventure Central youth gather for a photo during a summer day camp session.

“The thing that makes Adventure Central so special is that we’re all learning together,” said Crystal Sheppard, program coordinator at Adventure Central. “We’re really doing life with them and learning how to be there for every aspect of their lives. The kids are constantly learning new things and I’m learning right alongside them.”

Located in Montgomery County, Adventure Central is a unique collaboration between Five Rivers MetroParks, Ohio 4-H youth development, and Ohio State University Extension that engages youth in nature-based exploration and educational programming.Youth participating in an after-school program.

Unlike the club-based programs that often come to mind when thinking about 4-H, Adventure Central youth don’t join a community club, complete 4-H projects, or compete at the county fair. Instead, staff bring the 4-H pledge to life every day through after-school programs, day and overnight camps, and family activity nights. They interact with youth on an almost daily basis throughout the school year and during the summer, creating a welcoming, safe, fun environment for youth in West Dayton to connect with nature and grow into caring, confident, competent leaders. At Adventure Central youth build life skills, strengthen their values, develop positive and trusting relationships, and increase their confidence.

During the school year after-school programs are the focus for youth. “Each month we Youth learning how to use the smoothie bike during Adventure Central's summer boys' group program.have a theme for our activities that focuses on one of the four H’s: head, heart, hands, and health. In February our theme is “shark tank” and we’re teaching the kids about entrepreneurship,” said program coordinator Angela Collie, or Ms. Peaches, as the kids at Adventure Central affectionately know her.

“We also partner with students from the University of Dayton to provide homework help and tutoring assistance for the kids,” said Tyler Kessler, Extension educator for 4-H at Adventure Central. “Our goal is to create opportunities for social, emotional, and Adventure Central youth smiling for a photo during a session focused on increasing wellness through art.educational learning, but we want them to have fun at the same time. Our program leaders are really intentional about creating activities that combine fun with education.”

The summer, however, is when Adventure Central really shines according to Collie. “I like to think of it as seven weeks of controlled chaos,” she said. Each week has a different theme and includes both structured and unstructured activities that give youth the freedom to grow and explore. “The kids love being in nature, so we’re outside as much as possible, but we always emphasize the importance of youth choice and youth voice. They really get to make the space their own during the summer,” said Collie.JET participants gathering together after a day of programming.

Teens at Adventure Central also take on a bigger role in the summer as many of them participate in the Job Experience and Training (JET) program. “The teens are placed in jobs throughout the Five Rivers MetroParks system and spend the summer developing real-life experience in nature-based careers,” said Sheppard. “The JET program is a rite of passage for many of the teens and gives them opportunities to develop as leaders and serve as role models for the younger kids.”

“Getting to work with the kids is truly the best part of my job,” said Collie. “I’m so glad that I get to be a support system for them, and I love when they come back after Teens gathering for a photo after graduating from the JET program.they’ve graduated and thank us for being there. Some of our alumni have even grown up and brought their kids back to be a part of Adventure Central, so we get to see the generational impact of our work.”

“I started working with Adventure Central when I was in college and the things that drew me in then are still the things I love about the program today,” said Kessler. “The world continues to change, but one thing that’s stayed the same is the kids. They continue to welcome me into their lives and are always teaching me something new. The kids are the reason I’m here and the reason why I love my job.”

You can make a gift to support Adventure Central program needs by donating to the 4-H Adventure Central Program Fund today!