As a 4H volunteer leader for 5 years, I have experienced first-hand how 4H can change the lives of those involved. The shy become outgoing, the unsure become confident and leaders are created by giving them a chance to succeed. And that is just the adult volunteers!
4H is the nation's largest youth development organization, whose humble beginnings started more than 100 years ago. The idea was to have young people become proactive in their communities, develop leadership skills and give back through community service. Early programs tied public school education with private life, with the purpose of helping rural youth solve agricultural challenges by learning more about the industries of their community.
Today, 4H is more expansive, no longer just agriculture or animal sciences; rocketry, robotics, computer sciences and environmental protection are just some of the clubs found nationwide.
No matter the club focus, all have the 4 "H"s in common. Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are the four Hs in 4-H, and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs:
- Head - Managing, Thinking
- Heart - Relating, Caring
- Hands - Giving, Working
- Health - Being, Living
These four principals guide youth to work collaboratively, take the lead in their own projects and set and achieve goals with confidence, and create long-lasting friendships with kids from all walks of life.
Statistics show that 4Hers get better grades, are more likely to go to college and contribute positively to families and community, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, all benefits that were not anticipated when 4H began.
With the help of adult volunteers and mentors, 4H youth learn by doing, and this hands-on approach builds a foundation for leadership and skills for success in their future careers. Not a bad result for just a small investment one's time.