Helping youth develop skills for success

Volunteers and staff working with young people on behalf of 4-H use Guiding Principles to direct their programming and provide a base of youth development. This article focuses on 4-H Guiding Principle Five: Youth develop skills that help them succeed.

The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles drive the programming in 4-H that promotes positive youth development. Positive youth development includes core elements like competence, character development, confidence, connection and caring for themselves and others. Volunteers support young people in 4-H programs by helping them develop life skills through hands-on educational activities. In this article series, Michigan State University Extension will explore each Guiding Principle and help all volunteers who work with youth to be more intentional in their efforts. The fifth 4-H Guiding Principle is “youth develop skills that help them succeed.” A video that corresponds with Guiding Principle Five is also available!

Michigan 4-H Youth Development works with volunteers in four major program delivery models to promote positive youth development: Clubs, planned youth mentoring, after school programs and short-term, special interest programs. Volunteers should keep their club members’ skill development at the forefront of their minds while working on projects. They should consider making it visible to young people how they can apply the skills they are learning through their projects to other areas outside of their club. Mentoring programs can help young people build and strengthen interpersonal and communication skills. Additionally, mentors can help youth explore career opportunities through the option of job shadowing.

After school programs can help build college readiness skills for high-school aged youth. Volunteers can build skills for young people that help them become workforce ready including interviewing skills, teamwork and dressing appropriately for the workplace. One great resource for volunteers in this area can be found on the 4-H careers website. Short-term, special interest program volunteers can involve youth in designing and executing a plan for something they want to experience. For instance, they can brainstorm ideas, carry out the education and reflect on how it went – whether it was a field trip, guest speaker or hands-on activity. A 4-H volunteer in any program area should recognize that their role is to help youth gain life skills that transfer to a successful adulthood.

Learn more about ways that volunteers working with young people can build life skills in the youth they serve by reading the other articles in this series!

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