Inclusive 4-H: What are the benefits?
Inclusive 4-H is beneficial to both youth with and without disabilities.
According to the Michigan State University indicia, 4-H is open to all and I believe that to be true. After a local 4-H volunteer attended the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Volunteer Forum and a session about differently abled 4-H, Van Buren County made it a priority to include more youth with disabilities in the local 4-H program.
All youth need opportunities to be involved in activities unique to their own talents and interests. 4-H can empower youth with disabilities with the opportunity to be involved, make friendships and gain life skills. These opportunities are important to the 4-H program and can be embraced by members with and without disabilities.
Through 4-H, all youth with disabilities are given the opportunity to develop self-confidence, self-reliance and enhance life skills. At the same time, 4-H members without disabilities begin to see that everyone, disabled or not, has strengths and weaknesses and they learn to be less biased towards others. An inclusive 4-H program encourages members without disabilities to assist those with disabilities, helping them to develop their own skills in serving others while learning to be more empathetic. As a result, both parties learn a lot about patience and perseverance.
According to the University of Wyoming, an inclusive 4-H program is one that:
- Recognizes that people are the same but also different.
- Creates chances for others to experience freedom to participate.
- Values each person and diversity.
- Supports participation.
Looking to make your 4-H program more inclusive? Michigan State University Extension has information and tips on inclusive 4-H, predominantly related to the long-time Proud Equestrians Program. Other examples of successful inclusive 4-H programs include the Northwestern Michigan 4-H Livestock Council.