Today’s world is ‘cultivating’
Cultivating is used in the development of our youth, volunteers, neighborhoods and communities.
When people think of the word ‘cultivating,’ farming comes to many minds with images of improving and preparing land, plowing and fertilizing in order to promote, foster and nurture the growth of the crop. Many of these same ideas are used in the development of our youth, volunteers, neighborhoods and communities.
In the late seventies, the Michigan State University Extension 4-H program hired 4-H program assistants across the state. Program assistants helped expand 4-H in urban and underserved communities to reach an audience of youth that didn’t have a strong connection to the traditional 4-H programming. The 4-H program assistants (as outreach workers) were directed to identify, recruit and train volunteers to become 4-H leaders, although they didn’t have much experience with urban 4-H programming, they began cultivating this outreach effort within their selected communities.
Many of the 4-H program assistants created 4-H informational flyers and distributed the flyers within their county’s urban neighborhoods. They talked with school officials, did classrooms and after school presentations, most of the time to no avail. Within these communities, the 4-H program was perceived to be an agricultural program for rural area youth, which had not been a part of their life experiences. Of course, there were individuals that had negative attitudes about expanding the 4-H program into underserved neighborhoods for fear that these urban youth and volunteers would wreak havoc on the established 4-H program and its’ long history and traditions.
Within Calhoun County, however, the 4-H program assistant realized that in order to expand and sustain the 4-H program in urban communities, significant work would need to be made to cultivate individuals within these neighborhoods. The 4-H program assistant began with verbal and non-verbal observations of the activities, events and interactions of the youth and adults within the communities. The 4-H program assistant was able to focus on their assets and recognize challenges that they were facing, and was able to identify grassroots adult leaders that were willing to come together on behalf of the youth within their community.
In this outreach effort, focus was made to promote MSU Extension 4-H as a positive youth development program, with education being the primary focus and aligning MSU Extension resources with local needs and interests. Fostering and nurturing relationships to promote growth with both grassroots and key stakeholders began to build momentum, as did establishing long-term involvement with the presence of the 4-H program in communities. Calhoun County’s 4-H program has been successful to this day ‘cultivating’ young people from its rural, suburbs and urban communities. Many of the young people involved in the 4-H program have grown and gone on to succeed and prosper in their communities, taking with them the knowledge that was cultivated throughout their time in 4-H. The efforts to nurture these young people early in life have positive outcomes which prove to be fruitful long into their futures, as well as that of the communities in which they live.