What makes 4-H different from other youth organizations?

There are many organizations serving youth across the United States. What makes 4-H Youth Development different?

There are many organizations that work with the young people of our communities. The purpose of these organizations is to build assets in the children of our community. A multitude of organizations provide services and education for youth. Outside of the school system, 4-H is one of the few youth programs that are mostly supported direct by tax dollars. Why is that the case? What makes 4-H different from these other organizations?

  1. Guiding Principles – Michigan 4-H Youth Development programs are based on the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles. Some organizations incorporate some of those ideas, but none incorporate all of them.
  2. Research based – We know that 4-H works! Positive youth development improves the lives of young people. Tufts University has conducted some long-term studies on the effect of 4-H. Young people who are members of 4-H clubs are more likely to engage in positive activities, go to college and be civically engaged in their communities. They are less likely to be involved in negative behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, risky sexual behaviors or bullying. Many of our programs have evaluations to show that participants not only increase their knowledge, but change behaviors.
  3. Open to everyone – 4-H Clubs offer a setting where young people from 5- to 19-years-old work in the same group. Both males and females work together. More experienced members can share their knowledge with newer members. 4-H welcomes members of all faiths along with those who aren’t part of a religious community. This diversity gives our participants experience in connecting with people from all backgrounds as they enter the workforce.
  4. Youth driven – Most youth serving organizations are set up by adults who tell the young people what they need to do. Whether it is specific requirements to earn a badge, or a coach telling a young person what to do in practice; 4-H isn’t designed to be that way. 4-H programs are designed so youth are actively engaged in their own development. Youth decide what activities they want to engage in, what they want to learn more about, and what projects they want to conduct in their community.

Michigan 4-H is operated through Michigan State University Extension. For more information or to find your local 4-H, visit http://4h.msue.msu.edu/.

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