Increasing Engagement through 4-H
UI expands teen programs to reach younger students and include non-4-H members
Teenagers across Idaho are getting more — and earlier — opportunities to learn about government, grow themselves professionally and serve their community thanks to changes to the University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development teen programs.
The changes come at the recommendation of a 4-H teen task force, formed in 2015 to find ways to get more teens involved in 4-H. UI began implementing the changes in 2016.
The teen programs now offer a wider range of opportunities to a greater number of teens statewide through accessible, engaging and diverse research-based experiences.
The biggest changes have been made to the Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC), the former 4-H Teen Conference.
“It’s a more professional conference and our state officers are more of a professional team,” said Donna R. Gillespie, UI Extension regional 4-H youth development educator. “They determined a name change would reflect a more professional image for the conference and make it more enticing for 4-H and non-4-H youth and adults who may not know or understand what Teen Conference is or represents.”
The event will now have an even greater focus on post-secondary education and career exploration. The 2017 event — scheduled June 26-29 on the UI Moscow campus — will be the first with the new name. It also offers a smaller state officer group, career-focused tours of businesses in Moscow and Pullman, two community service projects and the opportunity for non-4-H members to participate in the Build Your Future program.
Nurturing Career and Life Skills
Build Your Future is a National 4-H project that focuses on career exploration, interview skills, resume writing and other skills important for life after high school. The expansion of the program to non-4-H youth is part of UI’s efforts to increase the college-going rate in Idaho. Youth who complete the program in their county have the opportunity to attend STAC at no cost.
“We already know that 4-Hers are more likely to go on to post-secondary education, so this program is trying to reach kids who aren’t in 4-H to hopefully help increase the likelihood that they will go on,” said Carrie Johnson, UI Extension 4-H educator in Canyon County.
The new emphasis toward post-secondary education and career exploration aligns the 4-H on-campus experience with UI’s strategic plan and supports additional efforts of student recruitment and increased graduation rates by the UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Steering Committees Guide Efforts
As part of the program updates, 4-H formed statewide steering committees for STAC, the 4-H Ambassador program and Know Your Government (KYG) — 4-H’s three largest statewide programs. A content grid helps the committees determine what needs to be included to achieve the learning objectives of each program and ensure they are meeting the needs of Idaho’s youth.
The steering committees are made up primarily of 4-H youth, with the assistance of 4-H professionals and volunteers. The committees also come with term limits, position descriptions and operation handbooks.
KYG teaches youth about the legislative and judicial branches of Idaho government, culminating in a three-day trip to visit the state capital and meet with representatives. KYG will remain very similar in focus, but will allow for greater input and involvement from participants, including those on the steering committee and those who serve on subcommittees to organize the event.
Other program changes support UI’s effort to begin engaging with high school students earlier.
The 4-H Ambassador program has traditionally been for youth in ninth grade and above. The task force recommended the creation of four district ambassador programs that will be offered to youth as young as seventh grade as a way to get teens involved earlier and keep them engaged longer. Steering committees and content are now being formed for the revamped ambassador program.
“I think we will see our numbers across the state increase in these programs,” Gillespie said. “It’s been very rewarding to see the kids realize how much influence they can have over the programs.”
Story by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences