• By Ryan Farley, Extension Agent

4-H/Youth Development

4-H’s connection to positive youth development

Source: Mark Mains, assistant director for 4-H youth development

Mentioning 4-H and positive youth development often go hand-in-hand, but many of us may not realize what positive youth development exactly is and how 4-H provides that for its members.

We all want our young people to grow up to become productive members of society, and they learn many of these qualities through our positive youth development efforts. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, positive youth development is any program, activity or experience that:

• Allows youth to constructively and productively interact with their communities, schools, organizations, peers and families.

• Recognizes, uses and enhances youth’s strengths.

• Provides opportunities for young people to have positive outcomes.

• Fosters positive relationships between young people and between youth and adults.

• Provides support for young people to build leadership skills.

With positive youth development being our destination or end goal, 4-H is the vehicle we use to get there. 4-H is the youth outreach arm of the Cooperative Extension Service and the USDA. And through its programs and educational opportunities, 4-H provides an inclusive, caring and encouraging environment, where its members have positive, hands-on learning experiences in activities and topics that interest them. Our 4-H projects really do run the gamut when it comes to youth interest. There’s a good chance if your young person is interested in something, 4-H is a place where they can learn more about it.

In Kentucky 4-H, we are not so much focused on the end results of these projects and opportunities but on the journey young people take to complete them. Through this process, 4-Hers learn more about their interests and they get to meet other youth and adults who share similar interests and develop friendships with them. They also learn valuable life skills including responsibility, accountability and respect, which helps them develop their communication skills as well as their leadership ability.

For more information on positive youth development opportunities available in your community, contact the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service.

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