University of Illinois Extension personnel partner with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Fire Supression

MyPI IL instructors practice fire suppression

This week at the Warren County Extension Office in Monmouth, IL, the initial delegation of instructors within the Illinois Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Illinois, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the seventh state to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Lisa Fulkerson, County Extension Director for the Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Warren Unit and MyPI Illinois Program Coordinator, “One of the primary reasons that I wanted to partner with MyPI National and bring this program to our state and to our teens is because of the manner in which the program involves teens in the vitality of their communities.  Among its many offerings, the program’s capstone leadership project enables an exponential positive impact on community preparedness.  Every program graduate will have assisted in enhancing preparedness for emergencies and disasters for seven total families.  It is a quick, productive, and efficient way of enhancing readiness for disasters.  Added Fulkerson, “The initial delivery of MyPI will impact 875 households in six counties across the state.  In addition to the CERT skill set they learn and completion of the program’s innovative Add-On Catalog, our MyPI teens will engage with families and help them develop or enhance emergency supply kits and family communication plans.  After the initial pilot program deliveries, the program will expand to the remainder of the state.  Imagine the potential of this program when each MyPI teen is impacting a minimum of seven households in their communities.” 

Over the next 10 months, MyPI Illinois will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to approximately 125 teens and reaching approximately 875 families 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, strengthens 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 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.  We have seen fantastic success for several years in Mississippi and have now begun to replicate our model throughout the US under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI Illinois instructors over the next 10 months, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of MyPI Illinois for years to come, which is yet another achievable outcome and one that this great state and its citizens and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National and MyPI Mississippi Project Director.  Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “As our team approaches the conclusion of our Instructor Certification and Training Workshops for MyPI National Phase 1, it has been an awesome experience to see the buy-in and enthusiasm of the instructors in Illinois.  This state is truly going to be impacted in a tremendous way because of what these instructors are now ready to bring to the teens of Illinois.  I look forward to seeing and documenting the success and corresponding positive impact this national award winning program and these MyPI Illinois instructors will produce.” 

MyPI Illinois is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of eight pilot states delivering the MyPI curriculum to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  MyPI National recently 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 also recently received federal funding for a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enables the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and the first U.S. Territory to be represented, Guam.  Regarding Illinois, Akers stated, “We have been extremely pleased with the passion and dedication to this project that we have seen from our initial cohort of MyPI Illinois instructors.  It makes our job so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  Illinois teens, their families, and their communities are in for a treat on multiple levels.  It was a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be here this week and to work hand in hand with the instructors during their comprehensive training.  We are excited about this great partnership with University of Illinois Extension.  I anticipate fantastic growth as MyPI Illinois takes root, progresses and flourishes across the state in large part because of their efforts and dedication.  It is a tremendous, multi-faceted program that offers 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 Illinois, 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 impact.  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 profoundly positive impact for all involved here and will continue to work with the instructors and Lisa, our MyPI Illinois Program Coordinator, to ensure its success.”     

For students in the eight states, 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 Teen 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 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.  Carl Baker, County Extension Director, for the Clay, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper Unit, is among the newly certified MyPI Illinois instructors and will soon be delivering the program locally.  Baker’s message about the program is simple, “Disaster preparedness needs to become a cultural norm in an ever-changing global society.  MyPI Illinois delivers the disaster preparedness piece to our youth and makes them culturally aware of what is going on in their communities.  Today’s youth tend to learn more through direct hands-on teaching and innovative programming.  This program adopts that approach, all while providing leadership and service opportunities for our youth.” 

As the program develops and grows throughout Illinois, MyPI fosters multiple local and state level partnerships with youth serving agencies, first responders, emergency management personnel, etc.  Cindy Rhinehart, Emergency Management Director for Henderson County, was recently certified to deliver MyPI.  According to Rhinehart, “This program will be very beneficial within the context of community preparedness and resilience by imparting knowledge and relaying information to parents and citizens, and by educating our teens to assist their families and neighbors.  I like that this program focuses on educating our teens because they also have a civic responsibility here.  If they learn how to be prepared for disasters now, they will be well prepared in the future.  A prepared youth population translates to resilient communities and a better prepared whole community will assist in enabling a seamless disaster response for our first responders and emergency management officials.”  On the importance of MyPI Illinois and its focus on youth, Bill Million, University of Illinois Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development and a new MyPI Illinois instructor stated, “MyPI fosters the third "H" of the 4-H pledge - "hands to larger service" by promoting opportunities for 4-H teens. Through MyPI, teens will learn new skills focused on disaster preparedness and demonstrate civic engagement in their community. MyPI helps youth experience elements of positive youth development as they engage with peers and caring adults in learning about natural disasters. The program allows youth to develop independence as they gain the realization of being a contributing member of their community in times of need. MyPI also encourages youth to demonstrate generosity as they assist family and their community in developing family preparedness plans based upon the knowledge and skills they have mastered by participating in the program. MyPI is a program that will encourage teens stay in 4-H longer as they develop skills and abilities that can lead to a future career and prepare them as they enter the workforce.”

The partnering states 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 Illinois, including the areas of the state that the program will be delivered in the initial deliveries, please visit the MyPI Illinois website at or contact Lisa Fulkerson, MyPI Illinois Program Coordinator at or 309-837-3939.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Coordinator at or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching My PI Illinois and My PI National respectively, and Twitter handles can be found by searching @MyPI_IL and @MyPI_National.