Children and Youth Impacts: Developing Civically Engaged Leaders

In today’s globally connected world, youth face a number of challenges that will affect their families, communities and future careers.

The Issue

In today’s globally connected world, youth face a number of challenges that will affect their families, communities and future careers. Unfortunately, young people are not often engaged in addressing these critical issues, nor are they taught the skills necessary to make a difference. In order to build active and informed individuals who have the ability and desire to make an impact in today’s multicultural world, youth need the opportunity to respond to emerging issues through civic engagement and volunteerism. They also need experiences that equip them with the skills necessary to step up as leaders that understand and respect the culture of others.

MSU Extension Action

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is helping to develop youth as current and future leaders by providing programs that instill young people with the knowledge and skills to become positive agents of change. These programs focus on leadership development, civic education and engagement, global citizenship and cultural competencies that help youth build a commitment to civic service and responsibility while cultivating their capacity to lead as members of a multicultural world. In the 2015-16 program year, Michigan youth participated in nearly 88,000 of these types of Michigan 4-H experiences.

The Impact

Through experiences and trainings that teach youth how to run a meeting, deal with conflict, understand the public policy process, understand other cultures, work collaboratively with people of various leadership styles and personalities, and more, MSU Extension 4-H is growing current and future leaders who contribute to their communities, country and world. In comparison to before their 4-H experiences, youth showed significant increases in a variety of skills after their involvement in leadership and civic engagement related 4-H programs. In particular, youth showed:

  • Statistically significant increases in skills related to conflict resolution and facilitation. Specifically, they showed a:
    • 25 percent increase in those who indicated they were able to work things out when others disagreed with them.
    • 22 percent increase in those who reported they could help a group come to a united decision.
  • Statistically significant increases in skills related to civic participation. Among the specific examples are a:
    • 40 percent increase in those who reported they could contact someone they had never met before to get their help with a problem.
    • 29 percent increase in those who said they were prepared to work towards change in their community.
  • Statistically significant increases in leadership and communication skills. Examples include a:

    • 30 percent increase in those who reported they could run a meeting.
    • 35 percent increase in those who said they could repeat what was said to them in order to ensure their understanding.

In addition to helping youth develop these important civic engagement and leadership competencies, MSU Extension also provided 4-H’ers with the opportunity to explore new cultures through innovative programs such as the 4-H China Art Exchange and International Exchange programs, of which more than 6,400 youth participated

Quotes from Program Participants

“Some people may have the same idea as you and others may not, but working together will get you where you want to be.” - Youth participant in 4-H leadership and civic engagement program

4-H Youth Leaders Inspired to Make a Difference

The 2016 Michigan 4-H Youth Leadership and Global Citizenship Spectacular workshop brought together nearly 100 youth from across the state, as well as nine international students, to learn about becoming youth leaders in a globally connected world. Through a series of hands-on activities and youth-led trainings, attendees enhanced their skills and knowledge related to youth leadership, civic engagement, global citizenship, and international cultures. In addition, youth spent time developing a plan of action for using their newly sharpened skills and expertise in their own communities at home – bringing the global leadership to the local level.

For one young person, the event was truly spectacular: “This kind of conference is what contributes something big to my life and career. It inspired me to join the volunteer group in my town and go make a difference.”

MSU Extension Statewide Impact

In 2016, the state’s $60.2 million investment in MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension generated more than $1 billion for Michigan residents. Every dollar the state invested in AgBioResearch and MSU Extension leveraged an additional $2.68 in federal funds and external contracts, grants and other revenues, including nearly $1.1 million leveraged by MSU Extension children and youth programs alone. As a result, MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch are able to serve Michigan residents with a benefit/cost ratio of 19:1 when adding in other social and economic benefits too.

These cost benefits are huge, but they are not the only benefits that MSU Extension brings to the state. Through MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development, more than 209,000 youth learn compassion, respect, leadership skills, responsibility, the value of hard work and other critical abilities. In addition, MSU Extension early childhood education programs prepare thousands of Michigan’s youngest children for school success.

MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer, committed to achieving excellence through a diverse workforce and inclusive culture that encourages all people to reach their full potential. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jeffrey W. Dwyer, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing, MI 48824. This information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned.

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