A new research study verifies what many of us have thought for a long time. Involvement in 4-H affects people long beyond their younger years. The study commissioned by National 4-H Council of 4-H alumni included large samples of both 4-H alumni and a sample from the general population who were not involved in 4-H as youth. The study had three main points that show the relevance of youth engaging in 4-H today.
First, a 4-H experience correlates with success in life. All data suggests that 4-H alumni benefit from the 4-H model well into adulthood and over the course of their lives both socially and economically. 4-H’ers are more satisfied socially and emotionally.
The second finding was that 4-H alumni are community advocates. 4-H alumni are far more likely to donate, volunteer regularly, be involved with faith or politics and support funding for public universities.
The third major finding was that allegiance to 4-H remains strong throughout life. We often say that once a 4-H’er, always a 4-H’er. Even those that have disconnected from 4-H, still rate the organization in a very positive light. These 4-H alumni may just need to be asked to engage. How can we engage with you?
Connecting Youth to the World through Exchange Experiences
For the past 42 years, Idaho 4-H has offered an international exchange program to expand perspectives and experiences around the globe for members and their families. In 2019, Idaho 4-H families hosted 42 delegates from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for a one-month cultural immersion. At the same time, two Idaho 4-H members traveled to Norway as exchange students, experiencing the Nordic culture and their 4-H community.
The exchange program empowers 4-H members with knowledge and experiences vital to success as Idaho’s future leaders. The program takes the 4-H model of learning by doing and allows youth to get a truly hands-on cultural understanding. Host families experience an increase in their global perspective, while developing their leadership skills and communication. In a 2019 survey, 64% of families reported that they found the experience to be positive for the whole family. In that same survey, 43% strongly agreed that their children developed important skills in adapting to differences in values and behaviors, while learning to communicate with someone from a different culture.
Since its inception the program has grown to include academic year exchange students. These one-year exchanges allow for an enhanced cultural awareness to take place by bringing culture to rural communities. Exchange students participate in 4-H events including exhibition shows at county fairs, youth camps and school sports and clubs. Year-long exchange students become active members in their communities. One student was awarded second place in the Idaho Department of Education’s state level art contest. Others have been valued members of their school sports teams such as dance and cheerleading.
During International Education Week in November 2019, 4-H exchange students shared their culture with over 150 youth through cultural presentations at 4-H events and high schools. These presentations help spark the interest of youth to enhance their global perspective.
For Idaho youth that are looking to stretch their personal development, the exchange program offers experiences for them to travel abroad for one month during the summer. These youth along with 4-H members from across the country, travel to host countries to experience culture and represent America. During summer 2020, Idaho will have one of its largest group of youth traveling abroad. Seven 4-H members will go to Japan, Norway and, for the first time, Romania. The delegation to Romania is especially important as not only will these students be experiencing the culture, but they will be representing 4-H in a country that is just starting to develop their 4-H program.
The international exchange program embodies the last line of the 4-H pledge, “and my world.” The program helps youth develop their leadership, global awareness and communication in a lasting impactful way. The success of the program is seen in the return participation of host families year after year. In 2019, 38% of host families had previously hosted. And, six of the seven outbound students for 2020 have hosted in the past. The future of the program includes continuing to expand our youth’s exposure to the diverse culture of the world by youth-to-youth learning.
Overnight Camps Offer Experiences to Last a Lifetime
Planning and camp counselor training are underway, and excitement is building for this summer’s overnight 4-H camps. While overnight 4-H camps are held all across Idaho, in southwest Idaho, counselors have already submitted their applications and been interviewed for acceptance. The first counselor training was in early February.
Teen counselors dedicated to making the camp experience the best it can be for younger campers (grades 3-8) participate in 80 hours of planning and training January through May in preparation for over 220 campers entrusted to their care and leadership. Nearly 20 devoted adult volunteers provide specialized skills, chaperone and support the planning, training and amazing camp experience.
Campers have the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and experience a great deal of personal growth as they try new things they may have not experienced before. They gain a new appreciation of the great outdoors as they interact with nature by fishing, going on nature hikes, swimming in the lake and going to campfire every night. For some campers, 4-H camp may be the first time they have spent the night away from home, and they learn to make new friends quickly in their cabin groups.
In southwest Idaho, 4-H camp is for all youth whether they are enrolled in a 4-H club program or not.
The 4-H Adventure Camp mission is to empower youth to reach their full potential by providing opportunities to enhance life skills, have fun, and develop self-esteem in a secure and friendly environment.
Contact your UI Extension county office to learn more about overnight camp options in your area.
4-H Teen Health Advocates Taking Action in Communities
University of Idaho Extension has a strong relationship with communities, addressing locally identified issues and supporting community members to act. Building the potential of youth-adult partnerships is a great strategy for successful engagement. Idaho 4-H is building youth-adult partnerships through the Well Connected Communities initiative, delivering healthy changes in three communities.
The Well Connected Communities (WCC) Initiative is UI Extension’s effort to foster thriving healthy communities, drive transformational change, develop volunteer leadership and partner with youth in building a culture of health across Idaho. This work is being done in partnership with the National 4-H Council and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Idaho’s 4-H teen health advocates are sharing the responsibility to establish a health task force, lead a coalition, conduct health assessments, facilitate meetings and promote positive health strategies.
While 4-H teen health advocates are involved around the state, the WCC 4-H health advocates are immersed in the communities of Marsing, Caldwell and Preston. The health advocates receive training on teaching nutrition lessons, understanding social determinates of health, how to make changes at the community level, and communication and leadership skills. Several health advocates participated in the Master Wellness Volunteers program to better understand health promotion. Health advocates joined the WCC team in Marsing and Caldwell in 2018, and Preston in 2020.
WCC 4-H health advocates have energized and lead many activities in their communities. In Marsing they helped launch a youth-adult health task force. A teen led the task force through the RWJF county health rankings and roadmaps website. The teens then led the health task force as they investigated community health issues by photographing the physical environment. At a community conversation to discuss the photo-mapping, teens led the conversation and contributed to the final report. As a result, the health task force voted to transition to the Marsing health coalition. In summer 2019 the teens, with adult support, conducted a community survey at the county fair to assess health priorities.
The Caldwell health advocates conducted a health priority survey at their 2018 county fair. The Caldwell health coalition used the results along with RWJF county health rankings and roadmaps to direct prioritizing their action plan. Youth mental health was identified as the priority to address by the coalition. After receiving tobacco use prevention training, two Caldwell health advocates are presenting a vaping prevention workshop at the 2020 National Youth Summit on Healthy Living.
Additionally, 4-H teen health advocates are influencing youth by co-teaching alongside UI Extension educators and nutrition instructors’ lessons on think-your-drink, eating fruits and vegetables and healthy options when eating out. Their success is tied to 4-H’s strong youth-adult partnership approach guided by UI Extension professionals. 4-H teen health advocates and UI Extension professionals are implementing action plans to address public health priorities, leveraging resources and partnering to cultivate thriving healthy communities.
Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention Influencing Futures
Youth who attend the Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC) have greater tendencies to put thought into decisions about future career and college plans. With an emphasis on post-secondary education and careers, STAC aligns with the University of Idaho’s strategic plan and brings hundreds of Idaho youth to the U of I Moscow campus to experience college life, explore career opportunities and prepare for a lifetime of success. STAC is the new and modern version of the State Teen Conference. Learn how Idaho 4-H teens made the decision to improve their conference (PDF).
2019 delegates reported that STAC helped them develop and make informed decisions about college possibilities, with 50% of the delegates considering attending U of I after high school. Future plans include attendance by Washington State University Extension 4-H youth and a continued increase of participation from under-served Idaho youth. Learn more about the impact of STAC and career choices (PDF).
The 2020 STAC, Reach for the Stars, will be held June 22-25. Registration for 4-H and non-4-H members opens on April 1. Contact Donna R. Gillespie, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information about attending.