Recently, ISU Region 6 Extension Council members met to review the objectives and goals of the Iowa 4-H program. It was great to hear the passion for 4-H in the room and to discuss the business objections for program expansion with local Extension decision makers. The objectives discussed included: growing 4-H participation from the current 24,000 Iowa youth to 40,000 youth by the end of 2018, building the volunteer base and community partnerships to sustain that growth, and developing the public and private funding sources to gain access to $10 million annually by 2018.
How are those objectives going to be met? First, you need to have a high quality youth program. Secondly, ISU Extension staff, 4-H volunteers and supporters, and current 4-H youth and their parents need to share the positive aspects of 4-H membership.
How do we know 4-H is high quality? Research information from the 2007 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development (PYD) indicated that all youth, regardless of where they lived, their family situations, their socioeconomic status, their race or gender, had the capacity to thrive. Findings also showed that when communities, families and schools provided access to youth development programs, as well as opportunities for long-term adult interaction and mentoring, youth experienced success.
This study tracked the behaviors of youth over several years and how family, school and community experiences shaped their development. "We know that all youth have the potential to succeed, but we've found that the likelihood of success is greatest when youth regularly experience positive adult interaction and mentorship and are involved in youth development programs. We've also found that the nature and frequency of 4-H programs is associated with youth doing their best", noted Tufts University Professor Richard M. Lerner, director of the 4-H Study of PYD.
The 4-H Study of PYD was the first to measure the characteristics of positive youth development. The study involved more than 4,000 youth and 2,000 parents from 25 states to measure the impact personal and social factors had on a young person's development.
Key findings of the study showed that:
|*||Young people who participated in 4-H achieved higher grades, were more likely to go to college, and were less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking and smoking than those who didn't participate in 4-H.|
|*||One year of 4-H made young people 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their families, themselves, and their communities.|
|*||Youth in 4-H showed a greater ability to express opinions on community issues, help neighbors, and bond with adults.|
|*||4-H youth were more likely to give back to their communities than their peers who participated in other youth organizations.|
4-H in our counties is helping young people become contributing, competent, connected, caring, confident, and capable through a series of progressive learning experiences with caring adults. 4-H will continue to evolve and grow just as it has since many of us were in 4-H. Are you interested in being a part of the 4-H program; as a leader? A financial supporter? Or as a young person in 4th to 12th grades? If you have questions or want more information on getting involved with the 4-H organization, feel free to contact Cherokee County Extension office at 225-6196. 4-H is more than you ever imagined!