West Virginia University Extension Service State Civic Engagement and Global Education Specialist Denis Scott’s first job in Hawaii taught him how interconnected people around the world can be.
Scott was just 18 at the time he heard the mission statement of the nonprofit, American Youth Hostels, which states that their workers should “help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people.”
At the time, he didn’t realize the impact these words would have on him until he became more involved with youth development programs.
“Young people come from many different backgrounds, but share similar experiences and life struggles,” said Scott. “Everyone needs a strong support system to build a stable sense of self, and I feel that we help contribute to that through WVU Extension Service youth development programs.”
Scott is a native of Martinsburg, and his family’s roots in the Mountain State have grown for more than 200 years; his international travels which have led to places like the Philippines, Taiwan, Chile and Mexico have presented him with a unique worldview, which he uses to help youth in communities and towns across the state of West Virginia.
“Growing up, I witnessed how some kids in rural areas lack many of the opportunities that are readily accessible to youth in more urban areas,” he explained.
In his role with WVU Extension, Scott proves that you don’t need to live in an urban area or leave West Virginia to experience culture and diversity. He works with WVU Extension’s Global Education Team with “in-reach” efforts in communities across the state.
He has a passion for international studies, community action and experiential learning which he integrates into his efforts at WVU Extension in youth development programs.
“The individual faculty members across the state that work on global education and engagement are crucial to achieve our mission mandates in West Virginia,” Scott remarked. “We accomplish a lot together.”
Scott designs and coordinates 4-H youth development curriculum that helps young people learn about and understand different cultures, and the importance of working with others who might be different from themselves.
Through education, outreach and WVU Extension people and programs, Scott helps youth see their role in local, state, national and even international contexts. This prepares young West Virginians for future roles—whether it’s in college or when they enter the workforce.
One way in which youths learn these viewpoints is through lessons called “skill-a-thons.” Skill-a-thons help educate youths about the diverse characteristics of cultures.
“Food, customs and agriculture are all areas of skill-a-thons which help to instruct and engage youths, while strengthening understanding of their own culture,” Scott remarked.
He has also collaborated on WVU Extension’s first 4-H trip to Chile. This trip served both as a global and outreach initiative which allowed Scott and WVU Extension faculty to work together and learn more about one another and each of their skillsets.
“The teamwork involved in this project was tremendous. Chilean stakeholders collaborated with WVU Extension faculty and 4-H alumni to train volunteers, conduct day camps and develop hands-on experiential lessons. “
Previously, Scott served as an Extension Agent in Morgan County–a single-agent county with 17,000 people. His experience juggling responsibilities in four program units, gave him the skills he needed to tackle this new role within WVU Extension Service.
The two 4-H areas he leads—Civic Engagement and Global Education—go hand-in-hand with the motto he adopted years ago.
“The civic engagement aspect of this position has a focus on youth citizenship, leadership development, community action, and service learning. Our team is working on projects that give West Virginia youth a voice,” Scott explained.
“We want to them to be prepared to think global, and act local in practical, everyday situations.” Scott is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Human and Community Development, has earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from State University of New York, a bachelor’s degree in both Political Science and Sociology from Frostburg State University in Maryland and an associate’s degree in Political Science from Allegany College of Maryland.