Military Extension intern Kate Feldhues (right) helps coordinate activities for youth from military families at Fort Campbell Army Base in Kentucky. Purdue oversees the program, which places interns at U.S. military installations around the world.
It’s minutes before 2:30 p.m. on a Monday, and Kate Feldhues scrambles to get everything in place for the youngsters who soon will flood into Taylor Youth Center at Fort Campbell.
“I’m still getting to know some of them, so I want to be at the front doors waiting to greet them,” she says, putting the final touches on a for-fun survey she’ll conduct with the middle and high school students.
Moments later, school buses pull up to the entrance and begin unloading. Students check in and receive a personal welcome from Feldhues, along with these icebreaker questions: “Which do you prefer: the Tennessee Titans or New York Giants?” “Burger King or McDonalds?” “How many times each day do you brush your teeth: One? Two? Zero?”
For the next several hours Feldhues and the Taylor staff supervise activities, including games, craft-making, pickup basketball and dance. Feldhues even styles hair for a few girls in the youth center’s cosmetology area. Dajah Garth, 13, says Taylor is like “another home.”
“These kids are growing up in what many of us would think is anything but a normal life,” Feldhues says. “They don’t know any different, and for them this is completely normal.”
“Normal” childhood for the Taylor kids means one or both parents are serving in the U.S. Army.
Taylor Youth Center is within Fort Campbell, the 106,700-acre Army base that straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. The base is home to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. About 17,000 of the 101st’s 30,000 men and women are deployed, many in Afghanistan.
Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Army Airborne Division. More than half the division is deployed, leaving thousands of children missing at least one parent. Military Extension intern Kate Feldhues helps them through what can be a stressful time.
Since June 2010 Feldhues has served as an intern with Child, Youth and School Services, a military family support program within the Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program. The Cincinnati native is a recent graduate of Ohio Northern University, where she majored in youth ministry.
Feldhues is one of more than 60 young people from colleges across the country who has participated in the Military Extension Internship Program. Purdue University oversees the program, which places juniors, seniors and graduate students with an interest in child or youth development, education or recreation management on Army, Navy and Air Force installations around the world.
The program represents one piece of a research and education partnership that brings together more than 30 land-grant universities, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Office of Military Community & Family Policy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture in support of military families.
Collaboration between the armed forces and the Cooperative Extension Service makes sense, says Renée McKee, program leader for Purdue 4-H Youth Development and the military partnership director. “In Extension we’re part of a system that’s here to serve our constituents, regardless of who they are or where they come from,” she says. “This partnership allows faculty and staff in the Extension system to serve a new audience, perhaps, but their research and educational programming will also ultimately help even non-military families.
“To me, this partnership is a perfect fit.”