Traditional versus first generational 4-Hers

The differences between traditional 4-H members and first generation 4-Hers, which are new and maybe even unfamiliar with 4-H.

4-H clubs, mentoring programs, after school programs, short-term and special interest groups and various one-time events have an impact on families across the county. 4-H affects individuals in a variety of ways, depending on their demographics. The impact that 4-H has on a person determines their 4-H experience. 4-H experiences vary in every community and county. If you asked traditional participants how 4-H impacted their lives, many would respond with comments like, “I love 4-H,” “I was in 4-H with my neighbor,” “4-H gave me great exposure to new things,” “4-H assisted me in learning new skills” and “4-H helped me with public speaking.” Others may give you detailed responses about the county or state fair, raising animals, arts and crafts projects, club meetings, state awards and workshops or trainings.

Some communities have families that pass 4-H participation from generation to generation. This means that grandparents who were active in 4-H enroll their children, then their children grow up to have children engaged and active in 4-H. When this happens, youth tend to be very familiar with 4-H from family and their own long-term experiences.

What about individuals who didn’t grow up in 4-H or may have never even heard of it due to where they live? They may reside in an urban setting or may have limited resources (4-H can get pretty expensive). Many states have a growing population of first generation 4-Hers. These are members and volunteers who are new to the 4-H programs and community. They don’t have the same 4-H family history as some of the traditional members, but understand the benefits and value of 4-H.

First generation 4-Hers may need additional assistance and support from the county 4-H office as they do not know the ends and outs of 4-H, expectations, policies and procedures, county fair, club parliamentary procedures, etc. They may need additional time and resources to learn the history of 4-H and all it has to offer. What other things should be considered when recruiting, training and supporting first generation 4-H volunteers and members? Read more about first generation 4-Hers at “4-H opens new doors” from the University of Minnesota Extension.

For more information about 4-H, visit the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development website.

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