January 29, 2008

Four-H: A Proven Program with Positive Results

Jean RogalskyBy Jean Rogalsky
4-H Extension Agent

Youth and families in Pinellas County have a myriad of options to choose from when planning educational, social, and recreational activities. We are often asked why families should choose 4-H, or how is 4-H different from other youth organizations.
At a recent 4-H volunteer leader training, the 4-H club leaders were asked the following questions: Why is 4-H important to you and your family? Why have you made the commitment to 4-H?

2007 Demonstration DayThe responses of the volunteers were significant because not only have they embraced 4-H for their children; they have also made the commitment of their time to be a club leader. The group surveyed consisted of new and experienced volunteers. The following is a summary of their responses:
  • 4-H opens up a diverse community, outside of school and home. Youth and adults are enabled to look at things globally – not just on a small scale.
  • 4-H helps youth and adults build leadership skills and utilize the tools available (through 4-H).
  • Youth play, learn, and have the opportunity to take an interest and expand on it.
  • The opportunity for leadership development and public speaking is a wonderful aspect of 4-H.
  • 4-H community clubs offer more leadership opportunities than schools. Each club has its own set of officers and committees.
  • Learning to set goals and work on projects is so helpful as well as forming a sense of responsibility to the community beyond our friends and church.
  • Participating in a national organization with an even wider worldview.
  • Reputation, especially of those with past 4-H experiences.
  • Has the resources needed, and the curriculum is diverse.
  • Youth learn to think of others and build character. They are not in it just for themselves.
  • The 4 H’s : We can teach children helping (hands), taking care of others (health), human and non-human (heart), thinking about how they impact others – good or bad (head).

Role Models The value the volunteers find in 4-H is supported by research. According to a national research study (Learner, Positive Youth Development Study, 2007), the more often youth are involved in youth development programs, like 4-H, the more they and their communities benefit. Youth who spend more time involved in high-quality youth development programs like 4-H are more likely to experience positive youth development than other youth. These youth also contribute to their communities and are less likely to participate in risk behaviors. High-quality youth development programs ensure an environment that encourages sustained positive relationships with adult mentors, skill-building activities and leadership.

Developing these connections results in social capital and socially sustainable communities.

A variety of studies across the country have identified life skills gained through 4-H and the general impact of the program. One example, a study of 5th, 7th , and 9th-grade students (Astroth & Hayne, 2001, Goodwin, 2005), found that 4-H youth are more likely than other youth to report that they:
  • Do well in school
  • Are involved as leaders in their school and the community
  • Are looked up to as role models by other youth
  • Help others in the community

4-H youth reported that they are less likely than others to:

  • Shoplift or steal
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Ride in a car with someone who has been drinking
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Damage property for the fun of it
  • Skip school or cut classes
In summary, research indicates that 4-H youth are busy making contributions to improve the quality of life in their families, neighborhoods and communities. Four-H attracts youth from all types of families and achieves the same positive results. Florida 4-H is a powerful, proven program that makes a positive difference for all who participate.

Is 4-H for your family?

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