Morgantown, W.Va.— West Virginia University Extension Service Civic Engagement and Global Education Specialist Denis Scott was awarded a Certificate of Meritorious Service from Vietnam’s Minister of Education and Training.
The award was presented for providing impactful service and education to hundreds of Vietnamese youths and adults as well as Scott’s work strengthening global citizenship opportunities through West Virginia 4-H state camps.
Over the last four years, Scott has partnered with several nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and other entities to bridge cross-cultural ties and expand civic engagement opportunities in Vietnam. His work began at An Giang University, where he taught group dynamics, risk management, experiential learning, community engagement and stakeholder buy-in through the National Social Work and Community Health Institute, created by WVU Associate Professors Susan and Neal Newfield, also award recipients.
“Relationships between our countries have come such an unbelievably long way in my lifetime, and it’s an amazing feeling to see the tremendous work started by my WVU colleagues develop into programs that are recognized at the highest levels of Vietnam’s government,” said Scott. “It’s such an honor to see the programs that impact our youths and volunteers recognized by national officials.”
Presented by key administrators from An Giang University during their official WVU visit, the meritorious award was one of three international awards offered to individuals at WVU. A fourth award was presented to WVU as a whole for its cooperative efforts to expand social work and public health education in Vietnam and increase educational opportunities between institutions.
“This is a great recognition of WVU’s partnership with An Giang University and its collaborative efforts to impact cultural understanding across borders,” said Scott.
Building upon the Newfield’s more than 12 years of service, Scott worked collaboratively with several partners including Pacific Links, where he consulted with staff members hosting summer camps for hundreds of youths. The organization hosts Project Adapt, a program that reaches more than 700 girls each summer who are at risk for human trafficking.
“Their main goal with this project is to help these girls build confidence, become leaders and stay in school,” said Scott. “This enables them to have better economic opportunities for their families and opens doors for them in the future.”
Scott also consulted with several nonprofit managers and educators who provided activities for at-risk children with the goal of building their social skills and encouraging positive decision making and behavior.
“There are so many well qualified youth development professionals in Vietnam who have made strengthening families and communities their life’s work,” said Scott. “If I’ve been able to add any new ideas to their projects and programs, it’s a tribute to what I’ve learned about Extension’s impact with West Virginia youth over the years.”
For the past three years, Scott invited several faculty members and students from An Giang University’s affiliated high schools to West Virginia 4-H camps, where they met hundreds of West Virginia 4-H campers and formed cross-cultural bonds.
“For a lot of our 4-H’ers, this is the first time they’re meeting someone from another country,” said Scott. “It’s awesome to watch them not only interact, but become friends and stay in touch over the years.”
Scott also partnered with the Newfields to develop a creative study abroad program in 2016. The WVU 4-H Global Ambassador program, which joined seven West Virginia college age 4-H’ers with six WVU study abroad students, took place in Vietnam and Cambodia for the first time last year. Upon their return, 4-H’ers visited schools, camps and community groups around the state to present on what they learned and share cross-cultural understanding. The presentations reached more than 8,000 adults and youths across the state.
“The world is a global community now. It’s vital for West Virginians to understand the interconnectedness in all of us—whether it’s in economics, social relations, environmental issues or beyond,” said Scott. “It’s one world—and it’s important now more than ever before to understand other people and places.”
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education. Visit extension.wvu.edu to learn more.
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CONTACT: Tara Curtis, WVU Extension Service, 304.293.7996, firstname.lastname@example.org