We are not the flame
Only the spark.
On the surface, the phrase, “Youth Development” sounds relatively simple and straight forward. Let’s go get some youth and develop them. Job done, pat on back, repeat! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Michigan State University Extension knows children are wondrous and complex creatures, sometimes even more complex than some of the adults in their lives. Children are all different; they don’t love all of the same things or have the same interests. Depending on the youth, they may be at different stages in their own personal growth based on their age, home life, education, abilities or any number of other factors. What this means for adults is that youth development is a concept that is extremely broad and extremely deep.
This is one of the many reasons why Michigan 4-H programming is as wide, and varied, and has as many opportunities as it is. Youth can participate in activities ranging from raising cattle to designing video games to dog clubs to cultural art exchanges. Again, it’s easy to think that we can simply find an activity that someone is interested, do it and then assume we are done. The truth is, all of this is merely a catalyst. At times we get caught up in delivering numbers, obsessing about event details or grant reporting. As adults involved with Michigan 4-H, we need to remember what we are actually doing is shaping and molding young individuals and lighting the fires that burn within them. These fires will cause them to want to give back to their communities, pass on their experiences to other youth and become the leaders of tomorrow.