Recognizing and appreciating diversity: A key component of youth development

Staff and volunteers use the 4-H Guiding Principles to direct their efforts in designing and implementing programs. The sixth article in the series focuses on 4-H Guiding Principle Six: Youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.

The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles guide staff and volunteers as they design and implement youth programs that teach young people critical skills like a lifelong commitment to learning, setting appropriate boundaries and building connections with positive adults and peers. The goal of the 4-H Guiding Principles is to help adults be more intentional in their efforts to build life skills in youth. Yes, 4-H is about fun – but it is about so much more than that! Ultimately, the goal of 4-H is to help youth become successful, active citizens. The sixth 4-H Guiding Principle is “youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.” A corresponding video also goes along with Guiding Principle Six.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes how volunteers deliver 4-H youth programming in Michigan in four major ways: Clubs, planned youth mentoring, after school programs and short-term, special interest programs. 4-H volunteer leaders should include youth in developing an atmosphere that encourages members to recognize and celebrate their differences. Volunteers might consider activities that help youth discover their values or research their cultural heritage. Youth can discuss their backgrounds with one another and celebrate the diversity of the group. Mentors and mentees are often from cultural backgrounds that vary from one another. Matches can share a meal from their culture or visit a historical site or museum together to learn more about different cultures.

After school program volunteers might facilitate a pen-pal, e-pal or art exchange to allow youth the opportunity to get to know someone their own age from another part of the country or world. They might plan a talent show at a local senior center where seniors and youth can work together to showcase their gifts. Short-term, special interest programs offer many opportunities for volunteers to expose youth to differences. Volunteers can engage youth in service projects that expose them to others from varied backgrounds including senior citizens, pre-schoolers, residents of a homeless shelter, community decision makers, teenage parents and more. Other ideas include researching and presenting traditions from around the world at an event including cultural food taste testing, cultural books and movies, dances and holiday events.

Keep an eye out for other articles in this series to learn more about ways that volunteers working with young people can build life skills in the youth they serve!

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