Colorado State University Extension partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI CO instructors practice fire suppression

This week at The Ranch at the Larimer County Fairgrounds in Loveland, the initial delegation of instructors within the Colorado Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Colorado, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the sixteenth state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Wade Ingle, the MyPI Colorado Program Manager and CSU Extension 4-H Specialist, STEM K-12, “MyPI is a youth development program that provides Colorado teens the opportunity to develop life skills such as leadership, civic duty, record keeping, and program planning/design through the implementation of a natural disaster preparedness plan within their community.  MyPI teaches youth to take an active role in the sustainability of the well-being of their families, neighbors, and communities through youth and caring adults working together to help others.  MyPI also provides Colorado’s youth the opportunity to explore and become excited about the STEM-related careers of first responders and emergency managers.  The program will also build new connections between Colorado’s communities and 4-H.” Added Ingle, “The MyPI program will impact communities at the local level.  I am confident that the skills youth will gain through this program will create both youth and adult leaders at the local level, thus building stronger communities in Colorado.”   

Over the next 11 months, MyPI Colorado will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities across the state.  This program, based on a national award winning model delivered in Mississippi through the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Citizen Corps, enhances individual, family, and community preparedness for disasters, while at the same time, strengthening youth leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion. “One of the underlying missions of MyPI National is to reboot youth preparedness across this country, to capitalize on the energy of our youth, and to set the new standard for how we engage our teens in sustained preparedness endeavors as we move forward in the face of a variety of threats and hazards that we continue to see on seemingly a daily basis, regardless of geographic location.  From the large urban areas to the smaller rural towns, emergencies and disasters do not discriminate.  We have seen fantastic success for several years in Mississippi and have now begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI Colorado instructors over the next 11 months, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of this program for years to come, which is yet another very achievable outcome and one that this great state and its citizens, families, and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director and MyPI Mississippi Program Coordinator. 

Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “We had a wonderful group of MyPI Instructors from across the state this week.  Colorado is such a geographically diverse state and this team of instructors is firmly ready and prepared to make an impact on Colorado teens through MyPI.  I have no doubt that Colorado will be able to sustain and grow this three-time, national award-winning youth preparedness program.”                  

MyPI Colorado is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 27 states and 2 US territories.  MyPI National Phase 1 began by delivering the MyPI model to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  In September of 2017, MyPI National was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness national award for “Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness.”  Capitalizing on program success and momentum, MyPI National began a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enabled the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and the first US territory to be represented, Guam.  In 2018, in addition to winning FEMA’s national CERT award for “Preparing the Whole Community”, MyPI National received additional federal funding for a Phase 3 expansion that added Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, and the second US territory to be represented, the US Virgin Islands.    

Regarding Colorado, Akers stated, “Our MyPI National Coordination team has literally travelled to all corners of the nation with this project and I can confidently say that the MyPI instructors in Colorado have displayed fantastic levels of passion, engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  As a National training team, we always hope to entertain the level of discussions that clearly project the instructors are thinking long-term.  That was certainly the case this week.  As the National Project Director, I can assert that this certainly makes administering this program and being a productive program incubator so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  Colorado teens, families, and communities are in for a treat on multiple levels due to the work of these great professionals and preparedness advocates.  Much like their colleagues across the nation, the instructors in Colorado truly exude a passion to change lives and to educate their communities, particularly their teens, through this program.  It was indeed a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be here in Colorado.  This initial cohort of instructors and Wade, the Program Manager, will prove to be a great asset for our overall program goals and will guide the state program with the motivation and zest that we have come to expect and that our program and stakeholders demand.  We are excited about this great partnership with Colorado State University Extension and community advocates, and look forward to seeing the program become a true statewide outreach campaign.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI Colorado takes root, it will progress and flourish across the state in large part because of their efforts and dedication.”

Added Akers, “MyPI offers a tremendous, multi-faceted approach to youth preparedness with rich learning and leadership opportunities for teens and enhanced preparedness levels for families and communities.  There is a definitive focus and energy necessary as we move into the next phase of MyPI Colorado, where the real work is done and the real impact is seen. On a personal and a professional level, I look forward to seeing these new instructors respond to the challenge and become the catalyst for positive change and impact across this state.  It is clear from this week that the instructors have a strong passion for disaster education and preparedness, the development of their youth and safety of their families, and the livelihood of these communities, which is wonderful to see.  We expect a positive impact for all involved and will continue to work with the instructors, the Program Manager, and community partners to ensure its success over the long-term.”     

The MyPI model offers a flexible 5 to 10 week, three component program.  In Component A, teenagers will complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified CERT training and corresponding modules focusing on Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety and Utility Control, Disaster Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue, CERT Organization, Disaster Psychology, and Terrorism and CERT.  In Component B, the Add-On Catalog features certification opportunities in CPR and AED usage, along with a technology track comprised of awareness programs focusing on HAM Radio, NOAA Weather Radio, Smoke Alarm Maintenance, and Smart Phone App and Social Media in Emergency Preparedness.  The Add-On Catalog also includes a disaster simulation, and a Career Track that focuses on public safety, fire service, and emergency management careers.  The final element of the program, Component C, includes a comprehensive family and community service project entitled PREP + 6 in which each participant helps develop emergency supply kits and emergency communication plans for their family AND 6 additional families or households. This component allows for significant enhancement in individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience.  To graduate from the program, students must complete all components.   

Brian Kailey, who serves as the CSU Extension, Logan County Director and 4-H/Natural Resource Agent, is among the newly certified MyPI Colorado instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  According to Kailey, “Youth have the ability to change this world, including emergency preparedness and how our families and communities prepare for disasters.  They can accomplish this through critical skills taught in MyPI through the guidance and direction of trained instructors.  Kailey added, “I would strongly encourage teens to make this program a priority.  It will change you.  You will see, learn, and experience things in this program that many individuals do not have opportunity to gain.  This program prepares you to prepare for and process emergencies and disaster events.  You will become a leader within your community for disaster preparedness, and you will learn life skills that you will take with you for the rest of your lives.”

Kelsey Keesling, Team Leader for Dolores County Search and Rescue and MyPI Colorado Instructor, also believes in the variety of benefits this program offers to students.  According to Keesling, “MyPI will teach students how to prepare your community in the event of a disaster.  If everyone is more prepared, this will ease the burden of first responders in a disaster.”  Added Keesling, “It is important for teens to engage in youth preparedness to teach them critical life skills and inform them how to take care of themselves and their families before, during, and after a disaster.  Learning and practicing skillsets provided during MyPI will help them in all aspects of life, while giving them confidence and helping them become better leaders and more engaged citizens.      

The program not only relies on its trained instructor cohort, but it also enlists the assistance and advocacy of the first responder and emergency management community.  Mike Gavin, who serves as the Emergency Manager in Fort Collins, indicated that the program is primed to benefit communities.  According to Gavin, “This program reaches a variety of target audiences.  It begins with the individuals and impacts the families, which makes the community better prepared and more resilient.  The skills developed in the program will save lives.  With an educated and skilled youth with regards to disaster preparedness, we can expect less need for responses during emergencies.  MyPI will assist in preparing our citizens to be better prepared, helping them become assets as opposed to victims.”  Added Gavin, “As an emergency management professional, I am a strong advocate for this program because it involves our future generations stepping up, becoming active, and leading a very important platform to save lives and property through preparedness versus response.” 

Megan Blaser, 4-H Youth Development Agent in Larimer County, and Bruce Fickenscher, Range and Livestock, CSU Extension Southeast Area Director, are also among the newly certified MyPI Colorado instructors.  Blaser stated, “The level of engagement promoted within MyPI Colorado equips teens with life skills they need to prepare for disaster situations.  The outreach component, PREP + 6, empowers them through knowledge and provides a purpose for them to engage in the community and produce impact.  MyPI Colorado recognizes the underutilized youth audience that 4-H serves.  Instructors mentor and educate these participants with knowledge they need to plan for safety before, during, and after a disaster.  Their capstone service project enables them to assist their own household by building emergency supply kits and family communication plans, and then assist other households with their kits and plans.  This strategy builds the capacity of our local communities to be resilient in times of emergencies and disasters”. 

Blaser strongly encourages adults to consider becoming a MyPI Colorado instructor.  “MyPI addresses many disasters that plague our region, including fires.  This research based program gives all the tools you need to build critical partnerships and empower the teens you work with to be prepared and productive during stressful times.  As an instructor, you could be the link to the life and leadership skills that could literally save lives.”   Fickenscher agreed with Blaser’s assertion and encouragement of future instructors in the program.  “Go for it.  All of us have been or will be involved in emergencies and/or disasters and could be even more so in the future.  Educating ourselves is as important as educating others.  We should be the leaders in our communities.  We should be the role models that enact the change that we want to see.  We can provide the platform for critical change that shapes the lives of our teens and creates positive results both in terms of youth leadership and community preparedness”. 

The partners in MyPI National are replicating the model created and delivered in Mississippi.  In 2014, the Mississippi Youth Preparedness Initiative was named FEMA’s national award winner for Outstanding Youth Preparedness program. It also received an Honorable Mention recognition for “Preparing the Whole Community.” In 2015, MyPI Mississippi was named one of the first entities to be named an official Affirmer of the new National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education. As such, MyPI is an engaged and recognized component of a nationally supported, progressive approach to preparing youth for emergencies and disasters.  MyPI National is also recognized as an Affirmer of the national strategy.

For additional information regarding MyPI Colorado, including areas of the state that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Colorado website at http://mypicolorado.org or contact Wade Ingle, MyPI Colorado Program Manager at wade.ingle@colostate.edu or 970-491-0893.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at http://mypinational.extension.msstate.edu or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director at cra20@msstate.edu or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching “My PI Colorado” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_CO” and “@MyPI_National”.