Cornell Cooperative Extension partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

MyPI New York Instructors practice fire suppression protocols

This week in Binghamton, New York, the initial delegation of instructors within the New York Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI New York, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the 29th state/territory-level program to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Dr. Andy Turner, the MyPI New York Program Manager, and who serves as the New York State 4-H Director, “The MyPI program fits so well with our 4-H positive youth development framework of helping youth feel a sense of belonging, engage with their communities, and explore new interests.  Providing an avenue for youth to take an active role in preparing themselves, their families and communities for emergencies and disasters is a great addition to our programming and fits perfectly with broader Extension efforts in emergency preparedness and developing resiliency in the face of climate change.” Added Turner, who will assume the role of Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in December, “There is a real opportunity for this program to connect youth to community leaders, develop their leadership and communication skills, and create pathways to careers in a wide range of health, medical, emergency response and other fields.  The design of the program is excellent and allows us to bring the program to communities from Lake Erie all the way to New York City.  Cornell Cooperative Extension is excited to join this nationally recognized and time-tested program!”.

Over the next two years, MyPI New York will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities in a variety of locations throughout New York.  This program, based on a national award-winning model developed and delivered in Mississippi through the Mississippi State University Extension Service 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. “The underlying missions of MyPI National are to reboot youth preparedness across our states and territories, to capitalize on the energy of our teens, and to set the new standard for how we engage our teens in sustainable 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 and villages, emergencies and disasters do not discriminate.  We have to be aware of all possible risks and hazards and educate all citizens, including our youth. We have seen fantastic success for many years in Mississippi and have seen the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with the initial cohort of MyPI New York instructors, 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 these great citizens, families, and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director and MyPI Mississippi Program Coordinator.

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 New York, where the real work is carried out 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 the 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.  Who knows when we will see the next emergency or major disaster? But we do know that it’s not a question of if…it’s a question of when. The program that our instructors will deliver and the work our teens will do provides an invaluable and perhaps life-saving service across their communities and for their people. 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.”

Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “I have thoroughly enjoyed being in New York this week with our instructors and learning just how diverse the state is. From New York City to Albany to Shushan, it truly is a unique state with many different types of regions, cities, and towns. It’s also quite diverse in the variety of risks and hazards that it sees. I look forward to the work that these great educators will conduct in their communities and seeing the impact of that work on the program’s participants and families.”

MyPI New York is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 37 states and 3 US territories.  MyPI National’s Phase 1 pilot began in 2015 with 8 state-level programs. 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 10 new states. 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 11 new state partners and 2 US territories. In 2019, the MyPI model was recognized with the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals’ Citizenry in 4-H Youth Development national award, it’s fourth national award in five years. Finally, in 2022, MyPI National obtained federal funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a fourth expansion of the program.

Regarding New York’s program, Akers stated, “Our MyPI National Coordination team has literally travelled to all corners of the nation and across the world with this project.  This week, we were excited to be back in FEMA Region II, where we have been looking to enhance our programmatic footprint and outreach in areas that have been hit hard by natural disasters. I can confidently say that the MyPI New York instructors have displayed the kind of engagement and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners throughout MyPI National.  We are looking for that definitive ‘zest’ and ‘passion’ to move these projects forward and that was the case here this week in Binghamton. As a National training team, we hope to entertain the level of discussions that clearly project the instructors are thinking long-term, not just the initial deliveries.  That was certainly the case this week and I believe this program has quite a bright future.  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.  New York teens, families, and communities are in for a treat on multiple levels due to the work of these great professionals, educators, and preparedness advocates.  Much like their colleagues across the nation, the instructors in New York 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 able to spend some critical training time here this week. This initial cohort of instructors and Dr. Turner, the MyPI New York Program Manager, will prove to be a great asset for our overall program goals and will guide the program with the motivation that we have come to expect, and that our program and stakeholders demand.  We are excited about this great partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension and we are already seeing a developing relationship between the program and the instructors. We look forward to seeing the program eventually become a state-wide outreach campaign.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI New York takes root, it will progress and flourish in large part because of their efforts and dedication.”

The MyPI model offers a flexible and comprehensive, 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, a school safety/active shooter awareness program, an extreme weather awareness program, a public health awareness and mitigation program, 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.

John Bowe, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County and Assistant Coordinator of New York State 4-H Shooting Sports, believes in the power of youth inclusion in emergency preparedness. According to Bowe, who also serves as a certified MyPI New York instructor, “Youth have a vested interest in America’s future and any opportunity for them to gain leadership, build professional skills, and join a community of belonging will help them succeed. MyPI presents those opportunities. As a MyPI participant, you will build your resume, learn to help others, and improve your public speaking, which is such a critical and valuable skill. And for potential instructors with an interest in mentoring youth as well as building resilient communities, I would certainly recommend this comprehensive four-time, national award-winning program. It is intense but very engaging and ultimately, very rewarding to all involved. MyPI’s capstone service project, PREP+6 will have a unique impact on youth, families, and communities across New York by helping families develop communication plans and emergency supply kits. When implemented properly, PREP+6 will magnify the impact of the program to larger communities.”

Juan Espinal, Program Liaison – 4-H/Positive Youth Development in New York City and a newly certified MyPI New York Instructor, agrees with Bowe. According to Espinal, “Through MyPI, participants gain the knowledge and confidence to handle emergency situations, which can be empowering and reduce fear during crises. The program emphasizes the importance of clear communication within families during emergencies, which can prevent panic and confusion. With a population that knows how to respond to emergencies, communities are better equipped to respond effectively, reducing damage and harm.  Overall, MyPI programs contribute to creating a culture of preparedness and resilience. They educate and empower individuals, strengthen family units, and bolster the capacity of communities to withstand and recover from disasters. By promoting knowledge, skills, and proactive measures, these programs help protect lives and property and reduce the social and economic impacts of emergencies and disasters.”

Espinal was initially attracted to the comprehensive nature of the program as a community leader and educator that works with and mentors youth. “MyPI New York stands out as a holistic program that addresses the multifaceted aspects of community safety and security. By placing a strong emphasis on involving youth, it adopts a forward-looking approach to build a more resilient and prepared society, adapting to the ever-changing dynamics of our world,” added Espinal.

Heidi Feltz, the 4-H Program Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County and new MyPI New York instructor, also believes in MyPI’s ability to enhance individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience. According to Feltz, “MyPI is a preparedness program that teaches critical life skills. It gives teens the opportunity to be leaders in their community to make a difference all the while learning life skills themselves. MyPI speaks to all that 4-H strives to accomplish through our programming and enhances our youth’s confidence, independence, resilience, and compassion. While the program enriches students’ lives in so many ways, instructors have the opportunity to influence, teach, and help our youth through engaging them in emergency preparedness.”

Chelsea Denny, a Youth and Family Development – Health and Wellness Resource Educator in Clinton County recently completed MyPI New York Instructor certification process and believes in the emergency preparedness and youth leadership constructs and principles that are inherent within MyPI. According to Denny, “Youth engagement and preparedness is crucial in building resilient communities. MyPI New York will provide an exceptional opportunity for teens to develop vital skills and knowledge in emergency preparedness situations. Empowering New York youth and their families will foster a culture of readiness and response where the younger generation takes charge in ensuring the safety and well-being of their communities. This program is beneficial to all individuals and families surrounding community preparedness and resilience. The information contained in each module touches on more than just basics of areas like disaster preparedness, first aid and safety, terrorism, disaster psychology. It is extensive and covers all details needed to ensure that individuals and their families have all the critical knowledge to react during emergencies. Preparedness in any situation is key to surviving and can allow people to react calmly under high stress situations. The information that MyPI offers youth is crucial in our current social and emotional climate and there is no other program that I’ve come across that is as comprehensive and vital as MyPI.”

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 New York, including areas that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI New York website at and contact Dr. Andy Turner, MyPI New York Program Manager at or 607.227.9820. For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director at or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both programs on Facebook. Those profiles can be found by searching “MyPI New York” and “My PI National” respectively.