5 Tips for building youth’s leadership skills – Part 2: Responsible citizenship

Explore some quick suggestions to add opportunities to develop a sense of responsibility and citizenship to youth development activities.

Many volunteers who work with youth organize projects based on interests, such as dog training or writing a business plan. One of the challenges of 4-H volunteers is to complement these learning experiences with leadership skills. Volunteers might not always know how to prepare youth for taking on more responsibility in the future.

Here are a few ideas volunteers can use to enhance the responsible citizenship of their participants:

  • Start small: delegate responsibilities to youth that adults might normally do (ex: passing out materials, making announcements, taking a poll on pizza topping choices).
  • Connect youth and their interests to real-world issues. Have them read the local newspaper or search online for news that pertains to their projects. If your city council is discussing an ordinance about keeping chickens in the city limits, take youth participants to their meeting and learn how city government works.
  • Encourage youth to research possible community service projects, discuss them as a group, then choose the project based on their collective values.
  • Have the students write letters to the editor of their local newspaper about an issue they feel strongly about.
  • Keep youth accountable for what they say they will do. Following through on commitments is a part of being a good citizen.

When you need new ideas or want some help adding layers of skill-building to your 4-H participants’ experiences, make sure to visit your local 4-H office or check out the Citizenship, Leadership & Service section of the Michigan 4-H website for lots of information! This is the second in a series of how to build leadership skills in youth. Be sure to also read about decision-making skills, public speaking skills, goal-setting skills and problem-solving skills.

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