4-H Promotes High-Quality, Positive Youth Development

March 17, 2015

Four leaf clovers may be hard to find, but the youth organization known by their four leaf clover logo can be found in every county in the United States. The 4-H Club was started more than 100 years ago as the youth development program of the Cooperative Extension System of land-grant universities and has become the nation’s largest youth development organization with more than 6 million young people enrolled. Originally started as a way to give rural youth new agricultural skills, 4-H has grown into a global organization that teaches a range of life skills supported with structured learning, encouragement and adult mentoring.

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, My heart to greater loyalty My hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my Club, my community, my country, and my world.” —The 4-H Pledge

As these young people learn these skills through their 4-H activities, they, in turn, grow to be active in their communities and to have a higher educational achievement. In 2002, a study by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, Medford, MA, called The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, was started and repeated annually for eight years, surveying more than 7,000 adolescents from diverse backgrounds across 42 U.S. states. The findings of this study reported that youth involved in 4-H programs excel in several areas:

  • 4 Times more likely to make contributions to their communities (Grades 7-12)
  • 2 Times more likely to be civically active (Grades 8-12)
  • 2 Times more likely to make healthier choices (Grade 7)
  • 2 Times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time (Grades 10 – 12)
  • 4-H Girls are 2 times more likely (Grade 10) and nearly 3 times more likely (Grade 12) to take part in science programs compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities
Champion Dairy – Skylar Noblin

We visited with Lurlinda Soignier, the Mississippi State University Extension Service Agent for Hinds County, Mississippi, and asked her how she sees 4-H crossing over into the classroom. “Most people think about 4-H as just livestock or canning or the old school activities when, in fact, 4-H has evolved into all kinds of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) activities—even Robotics!” Lurlinda goes on to say, “In Mississippi, because agriculture is still our #1 industry, much of our 4-H Program still centers around agriculture. However, we do have a wide array of 4-H activities available. Each state’s activities are based on the major industries of that state, so other states may have different activities.” Lurlinda has seen 4-H members in her county grow up to be respectful, responsible adults with good business sense. She says, “Through 4-H Livestock, for example, members learn to respect others’ opinions, have good sportsmanship, and learn there are rewards for hard work. They learn a sense of responsibility for their animal because they are the ones taking care of them, and they become good time managers as they strive to maintain good grades and participate in other school activities all while taking care of their animals. Plus, 4-H members learn entrepreneurial skills such as what it costs to buy their animal, feed it out, maintain facilities for it, and what they get out of it at the end.” 

‍Champion Market Hog – Reginald Pinkston, Debreanna Taylor, Aaliyah Lyle 

Thanks to Lurlinda and 3,500 other professionals, 540,000 volunteers and more than 60 million alumni, 4-H is proving to be successful in their efforts to shape future leaders and innovators around the world. Learn more about 4-H programsor find out how you can get involved. 

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.