Service and leadership: helping youth grow and contribute to society

The final article in this series focuses on 4-H Guiding Principle seven: Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.

Young people in 4-H pledge their heads to clearer thinking, their hearts to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service and their health to better living. The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles drive the programming in 4-H that promotes positive youth development. The seventh and final 4-H Guiding Principle directly connects with the 4-H pledge “youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.” Be sure to check out the following video that corresponds with Guiding Principle Seven!

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 working in 4-H clubs should understand how powerful service learning is in teaching youth leadership and the importance of giving back to one’s community. They can help youth research critical needs in the community and support their efforts in designing a service project based on those needs. Youth can vote on leadership roles within the project and work together to excute those roles. Finally, volunteers should help youth reflect on their service after the project ends to help them understand the ways they were able to contribute. Similarly, mentors can help youth explore their passions and connect those passions to service opportunities. For instance, if Jenny loves animals, her mentor can help her volunteer at an animal shelter where she can play with the dogs and cats who are waiting to be adopted.

After school programs offer a unique opportunity to understand the importance of civic engagement and understanding of one’s community. Volunteers in these settings might engage youth in character education, talking to them about the legislative process and teaching them how to assess community needs. Short-term, special interest program volunteers can engage youth in longer-term service projects. Some examples of these might include planting and maintaining a community garden, doing a river or park clean-up, designing and painting an community mural, and organizing a coat drive for children and youth in need. For more resources and ideas on engaging youth in community service, please read “Planning Your Community Service Project.”

Be sure to check out 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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