Children and Youth Impacts: Preparing the Future Generation for Success

With a goal of ensuring every Michigan child has the necessary knowledge, tools and skills to lead a healthy and productive life, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s children and youth programming prepares the state’s youth for the future.


With a goal of ensuring every Michigan child has the necessary knowledge, tools and skills to lead a healthy and productive life, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s children and youth programming prepares the state’s youth for the future. By providing children with a continuum of learning opportunities, resources and support from birth through age 19, these programs have a vital impact on Michigan communities. The programs develop a capacity for academic success in youth, create workforce-ready young adults, reduce high-risk behaviors, engage and develop youth as current and future leaders, and so much more. This brings great value to the Great Lakes State, as more successful young people in communities results in greater tax revenues and consumer spending and increases the likelihood that young people will stay in, or return to, their communities.

MSU Extension’s focus on child development starts during a child’s most formative years: birth to age 8. Through early childhood programming, parents and caregivers of the youngest Michiganders can receive resources and support to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to become their children’s best resource and advocate early in life. As youth become older, MSU Extension supports them through the largest youth development organization in the state: Michigan 4-H. This youth development program helps young people aged 5 to 19 grow critical life skills they need to contribute to their communities as both children and adults while exploring their interests and passions. By coupling positive adult mentorship with structured and instructional out-of-school time, real-world learning experiences and leadership opportunities, Michigan 4-H allows youth to explore new worlds and gain new knowledge while growing their confidence, civic engagement and leadership skills, and sense of responsibility.

Children and youth programming offered by MSU Extension focuses on five core areas: early childhood development, science literacy, leadership and civic engagement, career exploration and workforce development, and capacity building for youth development programs. The development of life skills is an overarching priority weaved into all aspects of MSU Extension children and youth programming.

Early Childhood Development

MSU Extension’s early childhood development programs support families with young children by helping parents and caregivers increase early childhood science, math and pre-literacy skills, and enhance children’s social and emotional development. As a result, Michigan’s families are stronger and young children are better prepared to enter and excel in school.

In 2016, MSU Extension early childhood education programs were delivered to nearly 2,600 parents and caregivers who influence nearly 50,000 children and youth on a daily basis. Of those surveyed:

  • 88 percent increased their knowledge of techniques that help young children learn and promote school readiness.
  • 74 percent reported an increase in knowledge of how to keep children safe physically, emotionally and socially.

Leadership and Civic Engagement

MSU Extension leadership and civic engagement programs prepare youth to become leaders in a globally connected and multicultural world. As a result, Michigan youth understand and respect the culture of others and are prepared to respond to local and global issues through leadership, civic engagement and volunteerism.

In the 2015-16 program year, Michigan youth participated in nearly 88,000 civic engagement, community service, cultural competency and leadership development 4-H experiences. After their involvement in these activities, 2016 youth showed statistically significant increases in skills related to conflict resolution, facilitation, civic participation, leadership and communication. Specific examples include a:

  • 29 percent increase in those who said they were prepared to work towards change in their community.
  • 25 percent increase in those who indicated they were able to work things out when others disagreed with them.

Science Literacy

Science literacy programs cultivate an understanding of the process of science, or how science works, and increase knowledge of science content and topics. As a result, youth are not only excited to pursue science careers, but also better equipped with important problemsolving, critical-thinking and decision-making life skills necessary for professional and personal success. 

During the 2015-16 program year, Michigan 4-H’ers had 262,000 4-H experiences related to science, engineering and technology. After participating in these programs for 3 hours or more, 2016 participants showed statistically significant increases in their attitudes and aspirations toward science, their interest and engagement in science, and their ability to demonstrate responsibility, criticalthinking and problem-solving skills. Specific examples include:

  • 91 percent said they were excited about new discoveries.
  • 90 percent indicated they liked science.
  • 90 percent said they use information to make decisions.

Career Exploration and Workforce Development

Career exploration and workforce development programs through MSU Extension allow youth to explore future careers and entrepreneurship while enhancing their financial literacy and developing important skills for the workforce. As a result, Michigan youth are better prepared to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

In 2016, this programming reached 11,100 participants in 80 Michigan counties. In addition, Michigan 4-H’ers explored more than 10,000 projects related to career exploration and workforce preparation in the 2015-16 program year. After their participation, those surveyed showed significant increases in their understanding of sound business and financial management practices, as well as their knowledge surrounding career readiness and exploration and their ability to perform key skills in these areas. Specific examples include a:

  • 49 percent increase in those who felt prepared for a job interview.
  • 30 percent increase in those who reported they understood how a credit card works.

Capacity Building

MSU Extension youth development capacity-building programs provide tools and services to 4-H and other youth development programs across the state. As a result, the people and organizations that support Michigan’s youth are better equipped to prepare young people for future educational, career and life success.

In 2016, MSU Extension reached more than 3,600 youth and adult participants through various capacity-building programs. This included providing more than 2,100 adults with professional development training, more than 1,100 individuals with volunteer training and more than 525 youth with mentoring programs. As a result of this programming, of those surveyed:

  • 89 percent said they learned the steps to proper volunteer supervision.
  • There was a 12 percent lower incidence of conduct problems in youth who had been matched with a Michigan 4-H mentor than youth who had not.

Life Skill Development

Life skill development is a critical aspect of all MSU Extension children and youth programs, which is why all youth projects and experiences use the experiential learning model through which children learn best. By employing the learn-by-doing approach and engaging young people in hands-on activities, MSU Extension is helping to develop life skills such as goal setting, recordkeeping and critical thinking, as well as personal and interpersonal skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, self-esteem and responsibility. As a result, Michigan youth are prepared with the necessary skills to contribute to their communities now and in the future.

Although life skill development is at the forefront of all children and youth programs, MSU Extension also engages adults and youth in intentional life skills development training and activities. In 2016, this programming was delivered to more than 400 adult and teen volunteers as well as 11,500 youth. Of those surveyed:

  • 82 percent could identify the life skills they learned in 4-H.

Children and Youth Programming Facts

  • Of the 66 MSU pre-college scholarships awarded in 2016- 2017, 71 percent were awarded to 4-H youth who participated in one of the six Michigan 4-H pre-college programs.
  • Since 2009, 61 percent of Michigan 4-H youth have enrolled in college the fall following high school, a number that is significantly higher than the average Michigan student (a rate of 53.7 percent) and 4-H alums’ college enrollment exceeds their peers in 77 percent of Michigan counties.
  • Of Michigan 4-H alums who earned a bachelor’s degree, 45 percent earned a science, technology, engineering or math degree, a rate 11 percent higher than the Michigan average.

Quotes from Program Participants

  • “I learned to respect [my child’s] feelings more and to help them identify and process feelings in a healthy way.” - Early childhood program participant
  • “I will be more mindful of certain criteria and I will be able to balance need for volunteers with need for safety more effectively.” - Participant in a 4-H capacity-building program
  • “4-H Tech Wizards is not just a group. We are a family.” - 4-H Tech Wizards mentor matched with three mentees

4-H Career Exploration Restores Hope and Dreams

When Cheboygan County school personnel identified a senior year dropout issue, they turned to Michigan 4-H for help in implementing a career exploration program that would show youth all the possibilities that awaited them after graduation. After a successful implementation of Michigan 4-H’s Build Your Future curriculum, youth began to see how a high school education paved the way for future success. After the class, one young person remarked that he felt encouraged to keep following his dream and that despite attending a rural school and having fewer advantages than some of his classmates, he could still make his dreams come true.

4-H’ers Show High Developmental Assets

In 2013, the Michigan 4-H Foundation commissioned a three-year study on the developmental assets of 4-H’ers in Clare, Gladwin and Midland counties. Performed by The Legacy Center for Community Success, the study evaluated experiences and qualities that have been identified as essential to healthy psychological and social development in childhood and adolescence. Once concluded in 2016, the study found that youth who participated in 4-H had high developmental assets and in fact, the group scored higher in five of the eight asset categories after their three-year involvement. These categories included empowerment, commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity. High developmental asset scores in these categories suggest that 4-H’ers were more likely to help others, build friendships, avoid bad choices such as using drugs and alcohol, have higher self-esteem and develop a more positive view of their future.

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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