May was Teen Empowerment Month, and throughout the month youth and adults were asked to nominate individuals they felt met criteria for the Triple A, Approachable Adult Award. In June, the Bee Inspired CAPP Program and Advisory Council selected three very valuable members of the serving area to receive the honor. The winners of this distinguished award went to Leah Feltz (Hamilton County), Heather Nielsen (Humboldt County), and Sara Abbas (Wright County), for their amazing work with youth, and for being approachable adults for youth.  The award recipients received Bee Inspired “swag bags” and plaques, thanking them for their dedication to youth.

Prom and graduation season, followed by the long summer months tend to be a time when risky behaviors increase for youth. The Bee Inspired Council’s mission is that all youth be empowered to make healthy informed decisions through education and community awareness. Having approachable adults are fundamental to the success of youth. Approachable adults are the ones who inspire and motivate youth to stick to their goals, and encourage them to be healthy and successful. The recipients of this award do just that.  They work diligently to build connections in both their personal and professional lives to build connections that are positive and authentic with youth.

The Bee Inspired Council’s goal with this award was to highlight adults who are approachable for youth, in an effort to encourage other adults to do the same. Criterion for the “Triple A” were the adults had to be considered ASKABLE, where they actively listen to and provide feedback in a non-judgmental manner. Secondly, they had to be someone who strives to BUILD BRIDGES with youth, by engaging them in conversation and activities. These special adults use “teachable moments” when the opportunity knocks, and they not only educate youth on healthy behaviors like brushing their teeth and eating their vegetables, but also cover “tough topics” like relationships, self-esteem, body image, drugs & alcohol, and/or sexual health. Many provide safe spaces and activities for youth to engage, and do it in a teen-friendly manner. Lastly, the Approachable Adult had to be someone that CONTINUES TO LEARN ways to enrich youth-adult connections. This could be through community and youth involvement, positive youth development, service-learning projects, attending workshops or classes for ongoing learning and mentoring, and more. Awardees had to live and/or work in Hamilton, Humboldt, or Wright County, be a parent/caregiver, teacher/educator, coach, neighbor, mentor, role model, and be someone who shows good character and demonstrates a positive impact with youth.

Leah Feltz serves as the County Youth Coordinator through the Hamilton County ISU Extension and Outreach Office. She was nominated for being a “great resource for ALL youth in Hamilton County, including those in 4-H and not in 4-H. She is willing to be a helping hand, listening ear, or smiling face for youth across Hamilton County. This includes being a leader for Hamilton County’s Youth Council, teaching leaders through Ricochet at the Webster City Middle School, teaching middle-schoolers about healthy snacks, and more.”  The individuals went on to share that Leah also served as a substitute teacher for Hamilton County schools before serving as County Youth Coordinator. She had multiple nominations for being an approachable adult. One anonymous individual mentioned, “besides her witty charm and inviting charisma, Leah’s approachability as an adult is built upon her relentless pursuit of engaging youth and creating a place for them to be heard and empowered. Her work as county youth coordinator, especially through the 4-H program, not only builds leaders but gives all youth a sense of belonging. She is intent on building bridges whether it be culturally, economically, socially, etc. She helps brings groups and individuals together everyday to work together for the greater good. She sees the best in people and brings it out in them. Youth are drawn to real people who show real love and really believe in them. She’s one of those people, and you can see it through the multitude of relationships she’s formed with the youth of our county.”

Heather Nielsen is a teacher in the Humboldt School District. She works with both middle and high school-aged youth. She was described by her nominators as being “a champion for her students” by being askable and “always continuing to look for new ways to meet the needs of her students.”  Another mentioned her “consistent pursuit to connect students with resources in the community.” Another individual highlighted “Heather’s ability to enhance youth-adult connections.” The have personally witnessed her efforts when she took on the teacher advisor role of the Rotary Interact Club in Humboldt. Heather didn’t hesitate to help with becoming the teacher advisor for the “mini Rotary” club, where it bridges the adult Rotary and the youth Rotary so that they can carry out the same objectives of Rotary and their service-based programming efforts.

Sara Abbas is a Nurse at Iowa Specialty Hospital in Wright County. She was nominated for being an “amazing mentor for children in the community and clinic. She is well known for her kindness, concern and consideration for all young people. She is readily available at all times, and volunteers time and service.”  Sara’s nominator mentioned her being known to have large groups of kids at her home, where she provides food and a place for someone to stay as needed. “She has a great rapport with all ages. She is very approachable and has at times assisted kids with tough questions about a multitude of health issues and answers very professionally, yet in a manner that is easily understood. She grew up in Wright County and has remained there for most of her life.” The individual shared that Sara would talk to her daughters when they were younger and she always made them feel they were very important and they could go to her with everything. They still feel this way today. “Sara attends most of the high school activities, and makes herself available to help out when needed.”

Thank you to all the individuals who nominated adults in your community. There are so many working to make positive impacts on to youth. We will be seeking nominations again next year, so “bee on the lookout” for approachable adults in your community. For more information on the Bee Approachable Award (Triple A), the Bee Inspired Program, or the Advisory Council feel free to contact Tiffany Larson, the Bee Inspired Program Coordinator.

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