4-H youth programs build good citizens

4-H grows good citizens through a variety of experiences and working with positive role models.

What does it mean to be a good citizen? The National 4-H website states 4‑H citizenship programs empower young people to be well-informed citizens who are actively engaged in their communities and the world. Youth learn about civic affairs, build decision-making skills and develop a sense of understanding and confidence in relating and connecting to other people.

In the current presidential election, much can be said about encouraging young people to be well-informed citizens who are activity engaged as they are prepared to vote and be more involved in the nation’s future.

Leading up to the first big vote, youth can be encouraged to be good citizens by their experiences in 4-H. In 4-H, youth learn how to share their voice and that their voice matters. From the simplest form of citizenship, 4-H’ers learn how to be a part of a community, a 4-H club and how their participation impacts that community. Youth may opt to be an inactive part of that 4-H club community, choose to become an active member, share their input or even hold a leadership role in a 4-H club. Regardless of their role, youth are learning what a good citizen is and how their participation affects the whole club. Members also learn about participation in the county, state and national 4-H program and how participation can affect larger communities as they learn to be a participant and leader in programs.

Youth as young as 5 can learn about their community through 4-H club community service projects the club organizes. Parents and leaders have a monumental impact in making youth understand how important helping others in their community can be by asking a few reflection questions, such as:

  • Who is benefitted by this service?
  • How did you feel as you were completing the service?
  • How do you think those who benefitted by this service feel?
  • What could happen as a result of this service?
  • How will this service change the community?

Having youth share their thoughts and ideas is the first step to encouraging youth voice in other areas and becoming an integral part of their community.

Another great program that helps to develop good citizenship is 4-H Capitol Experience. In Michigan, 4-H Capitol Experience exposes teens to state government from many different angles: legislators, agencies, lobbyists and other segments of community that effect governmental decisions and legislation. Through this experience, young people learn how to express their opinions and make a difference in state government.

As a national companion to 4-H Capitol Experience, 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus sheds light on how the national government process operates. Youth meet with senators and representatives and learn the history behind national government in a week-long program with 4-H’ers from other states.

Through many 4-H experiences, youth have the opportunity to be a participant in their learning, not just a recipient. Youth learn to serve alongside adults and their peers to learn about community and being a good citizen.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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