In 4-H, youth collaborate with caring adults to explore topics like science, health, agriculture, civic engagement, and the arts. Last year, 11,000 volunteers helped to provide a positive environment where 69,000 youth could learn by doing.
Our team at the Extension Center for Youth Development was curious about the impact of being a 4-H volunteer. My colleague Sam Grant, along with other 4-H youth development professionals, set out to answer this question. Over 200 of you responded to our research survey. Here’s what you told us.
Adults benefit from 4-H involvement
Volunteers come to 4-H hoping to support youth and make a difference. In the process, you gain skills in teaching, leadership and communication. These skills transfer to other environments in which you work and live.
According to our study, 92% of you build new relationship with youth within the scope of your volunteer role. That is so important because research shows a clear connection between a young person’s relationships with caring adults and their capacity to thrive. I love how one volunteer from Norman County described the outcome of such intergenerational connections:
“Youth and adults work together toward common goals. We focus on strengths instead of weaknesses and strive to break down social barriers so that all feel welcome.”
Gaining skills and confidence to lead
I was glad to see that 86% of you can identify tangible skills that you’ve built within your 4-H volunteer roles. And what a pleasure to know that those skills are proving useful in other areas of your lives. A 4-H volunteer from Beltrami County commented that her “volunteering in 4-H gave me the confidence to apply for a management position at work and the experience to thrive once I got it.”
Another volunteer, from Goodhue County, reflected on the growth he’s seen in his ability to speak publically and lead with poise. “It was hard to speak in front of a group,” he recalled. “I would talk fast and veer from the main point. After volunteering with 4-H, I have relaxed and become a better leader.”
What wonderful benefits there are to being a 4-H volunteer. We join for the sake of young people, and as we walk alongside them, we ourselves grow and change.
We wouldn’t be 4-H without you
I am proud of all the ways that youth in 4-H are supported throughout their learning. This support is provided by caring adults every step of the way. It’s provided by you.
I’m so pleased to know that you are personally benefiting from being in 4-H. Thank you for building new relationships, gaining skills as you go and sharing your passion with Minnesota young people. You are making a difference. I cannot imagine what we would be without you.
Jennifer A Skuza
State 4-H director