Celebrating 4-H’s Ninth decade: 4-H helps youth at risk


(This centennial celebration article is the seventh in a monthly series that will provide a closer look at the history of 4-H.)

In the ninth decade, 4-H explored new technologies, the Computer Age, increased delivery modes, and had a major focus on National Extension Initiatives, particularly Youth at Risk. All of these continued to be emphasized in the years ahead.

Needs assessment. A national needs assessment begun in 1982 and was completed in 1983. A 4-H National Needs Assessment included an extensive review of youth development literature, as well as an extensive survey of state perceptions of program operation and organizational needs.

The needs assessment led to the development of “4-H Horizons.” This included a statement of 10 national 4-H goals and introduced a new mission statement, “The mission of 4-H is to assist youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills and forming attitudes which will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society.”

4-H alumni study. This was a national evaluation done in 1985 about the long-term impact of the 4-H program, concluded that the powerful effects of 4-H expansion continues for decades. The study noted young people need to be given more of a voice in decision making and leadership of 4-H.

In 1987, the National 4-H Report Form was completely redesigned for the first time in decades. It eliminated the sometimes 6-inch individual record books entered in competitions.

Also in ’87, “…and My World” project was developed. The 4-H curriculum introduced international and cross-cultural education. It was funded by a grant from International Programs, Extension Service, USDA.

Programming. In 1988, “Youth at Risk” was identified by the Cooperative Extension System as a priority for action. Youth at Risk programming was focused on three areas of high need:

* School-age child care and education;

* Collaborations that support community programming with high risk youth;

* Development of literacy and technological literacy in youth at risk.

The vision for the Youth at Risk initiative was “for children and adolescents to lead positive, secure, happy young lives while developing the skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary for fulfilling contributing adult lives.”

During 1986-1989, Volunteer for the Future project was funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation for $1.6 million. It was focused on volunteer leader development. Eight states were funded for pilot programs in youth as resources, volunteer middle management, and working with advisory committees.

In 1990, “Community Cares”, a national 4-H project funded by Kellogg for $5.9 million, laid the groundwork for expanded outreach to youth at risk. Focus areas of the project were: fund development, staff development, volunteer management, and Centers for Action.

Results of the project were Fund Developers Institutes; Youth Development Institute; TAXI curriculum; and six centers of Action, two each in childcare, collaboration, and science and technology literacy.

Joint planning efforts. In 1990, a collaborative effort of the National 4-H Council and USDA’s Extension Service 4-H, involved joint planning and implementation of national 4-H efforts.

One outcome was a redesign of curriculum categories within 4-H. This gave equal weight to all disciplines, rather than concentrating efforts and recognition on agriculture and home economics topics. It affected both county enrollment reporting and national awards.

Ninety-five program sites (rural and urban) were funded and in 1990 the first of several National Youth at Risk Summit Conferences were held.

In addition, eight Centers for Action, part of a funding package from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, were identified to provide nationwide technical assistance for these sites. Community CARES grant and the Communities for Child Safety project, which resulted in the Community Wide System Response, were also important in this decade.

In 1991, a National 4-H Strategic Plan was developed by 330 4-H youth, volunteers, and Extension professionals from 46 states in an intense five-day meeting at the National 4-H Center.

The Strategic Directions Team then spent nearly a year converting notes into a comprehensive plan for 4-H.

About the plan. This plan included a new Mission Statement; “4-H Youth Development Program creates supportive environments for culturally diverse youth and adults to reach their fullest potential.”

The new vision was “4-H… A world leader in developing youth to become productive citizens and catalysts for positive change to meet the needs of a diverse and changing society.”

The Strategic Plan included six strategies:

1. The Learning Experience

2. World Leader Image

3. Youth Development Profession

4. Strategic Partnerships

5. Youth Involvement

6. Volunteer Development

That same year, Congress funded the Youth at Risk initiative for the first time, at the level of $7.5 million, to provide grants to communities. Congress appropriated $10 million for 1993.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!