Youth gain valuable leadership skills through community service

How to plan a community service project so it is meaningful for both your club and your community.

As the new 4-H year is getting underway, many Michigan 4-H clubs are planning the project areas, activities, guest speakers, field trips and workshops their group will be involved with for the next nine to 12 months.  One very important area to consider in this planning process is a community service project for your club.  No matter what project area your club works on, a community service project will help youth gain leadership, organizational and communication skills, and build a connection with the community in a meaningful way. 

Many adult 4-H leaders feel overwhelmed with the task of planning a community service activity for their group, according to Michigan State University Extension.  It is important for adults to remember that the more the youth are involved with all steps of the project, the more they will get out of the experience. Empower your youth leaders to facilitate a brainstorming session to talk about possible projects and to give everyone an equal voice when it comes to making the decision on the final project.  Make sure the tasks of organizing the project are divided up amongst all participants so no one person will feel besieged with the whole thing. The youth will gain competency in the skills they practice ranging from planning to problem-solving and decision making.  

Often clubs will get stuck in a rut of doing the same community service project year after year based on what is easy for them to do. Instead, try to fill a gap in your community by surveying residents and leaders to see what they think is missing or needed.  Talk to agencies or organizations to see what they need help with, or what would be on their ‘wish list.’  Aim to address a true community need, rather than just what your club thinks would be fun to do. 

When it comes time to organize the different parts of your community service project, have your youth members take a moment to think about which career skills they want to strengthen.  Service projects can be a great way for students to add experience to their résumé!  If they think about where they need to build up their skills and choose roles based on that, this project can be a safe place for them to get experience and become more confident in areas they will need in the future. 

Regardless, whichever projects your club decides to work on this year, you and your club will be actively engaged with your community and a part of an experience where everyone will win!  For more tips and resources, visit the Michigan 4-H Community Service & Learning website There are also many résumé resources on the Michigan 4-H Career Preparation website as well.

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