The 4-H Mission Mandate of Citizenship: Service and personal development

4-H has three “Mission Mandates” that are promoted through 4-H youth development programs. This article will explore the final two components of the 4-H Citizenship Mission Mandate: service and personal development.

Michigan 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to participate in numerous activities that are not only research-based, but high quality experiential activities as well. The 4-H Youth Development Program, back by Michigan State University Extension, allows them to develop life skills and content knowledge as well.  There are three national mission areas, created by 4-H, that serve as the core programming areas of all 4-H positive youth development programs.  The three mission areas, also known as the “Mission Mandates” are science, healthy living and citizenship.  The 4-H Mission Mandate of Citizenship is divided into four core components of citizenship education that include civic engagement, civic education, service and personal development.

Service, the third core area of the 4-H Citizenship Mission Mandate, includes community service, service learning and community youth development.  Community service and volunteerism are activities that are valued, encouraged and supported within all 4-H programs.  All 4-H members and clubs are encouraged to incorporate community service and volunteering as part of their participation.  Many 4-H clubs plan community service events for their members that match the interests and skills of club members to the needs of their community.  Youth develop citizenship knowledge and skills by being active participants in planning and leading community service activities.

Service learning is community service or volunteering that also includes a structured educational component.  Service learning programs in 4-H allow youth to develop critical thinking and planning skills as they identify an issue they are interested in working on, plan and conduct a service activity. Eventually they will reflect on the knowledge and skills that they develop through the service process. Michigan 4-H provides resources to assist youth and adult leaders in planning and conducting community service and service learning programs including ideas for projects, project guides and curriculum.

Personal development is the fourth core area of the 4-H Citizenship Mission Mandate. This component of citizenship includes skills and knowledge related to leadership, mutual respect and understanding, character development, and problem solving. These components of citizenship can be, and often are incorporated into any 4-H programs. 4-H clubs are one of the primary ways that youth develop skills in this area of citizenship.  Most 4-H clubs provide youth with opportunities to serve in leadership positions as club officers.  Club officers plan and conduct club meetings, help to plan, and develop agendas for club activities.  Many counties in Michigan offer 4-H leader and officer trainings in which youth develop leadership, facilitation and communication skills.  Michigan
4-H also provides curriculum focused on character development that is incorporated into a variety of 4-H settings. For more information regarding leadership training opportunities, 4-H members and leaders should contact their local 4-H program coordinator. 

In addition to county and club based opportunities, Michigan youth can also participate in state and national level trainings and conferences focused on citizenship.  In Michigan, youth can attend the Michigan 4-H Teen Leadership and Community Change conference, an annual program that takes place over a weekend in January at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich.  Attendees at the conference include youth and adults who share and learn ways to develop citizenship knowledge and skills.   Michigan youth also participate in national citizenship programs through their participation in the 4-H program, such as National 4-H Conference, National 4-H Congress and Citizenship Washington Focus.

The 4-H Youth Development program of MSU Extension offers youth a variety of research-based educational programs and learning opportunities that can assist youth in developing the character and competencies needed to engage in leadership roles in their community, country and the world.

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