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Research

4-H Youth Development Program

The 4-H Youth Development Program (4-H) is the largest out-of-school youth organization in the U.S., with over 7 million youth members ages 5 to 19. 4-H is present in every county or parish in the United States. Each unit is served by an Extension educator, called an Extension agent. As part of the mission, each land-grant university across the United States provides leadership for the 4-H program through its cooperative Extension program. The 4-H department provides leadership for 4-H youth development programming, strategic direction, policy, budget, and program evaluation. The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, and life skills of youth primarily through experiential-inquiry based learning programs. While primarily thought of as agriculturally focused, 4-H includes citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs.

The Kansas 4-H Youth Development Program serves youth throughout the state in rural, suburban, and urban communities. The 4-H program is currently reaching more than 60,000 young people through a variety of delivery modes. The 4-H community club program engages more than 18,000 youth in projects that range from communication, foods and nutrition and health, animal sciences, environmental education and photography. Through these projects and other hands on experiences, youth in 4-H learn life skills, leadership and citizenship. Adult and teen volunteers play a critical in planning and delivering the 4-H program locally, regionally and at the state level. Volunteer serve as project leaders, camp counselors, short term and long term volunteers. They coordinate local community clubs and help plan and conduct local, state, national, and international 4-H events. Over, 7,000 youth and adult volunteers currently are involved in the Kansas 4-H program. A volunteer screening process, including a rigorous background check, is used to recruit, screen, select and train volunteers for their 4-H volunteer role.

Recent efforts have been made to expand the 4-H program into reaching traditionally underserved youth and families. Program expansion projects and outreach to new audiences through 4-H has become a major focus. There are a number of opportunities to become engaged in the work through career and workforce readiness, program evaluatio,n and replicating and scaling program models that hold promise.

4-H is a clear pathway to college and career readiness. It helps young people to identify their interests, become acquainted with college campuses and learn discipline and resiliency in their pursuits. The field of youth development lends itself to research and evaluation. Principal Investigators may be interested in identifying local communities, Extension Agents and Specialists as potential partners for proposals. The 4-H Program can assist in the design, development, and implementation of a Kansas youth educational/outreach program for inclusion in a proposal. For more information, contact Diane Mack at dmack@ksu.edu