Want to make a difference in your community?
Through its pledge of "hands to larger service," 4-H has historically given back to the community by encouraging young people and adults to volunteer. In 4-H, service is commonly defined as the voluntary action of an individual or a group of individuals without pay. Service to the community – through food drives, raking the yard of an elderly neighbor, adopt-a-highway programs, teens teaching younger youth, teens mentoring children, or youth determining community needs and helping solve community problems – helps young people learn caring, leadership and citizenship.
"Every year millions of Americans volunteer at more than one million non-profit organizations throughout the United States."
(Volunteering: 101 Ways You Can Improve the World and Your Life, by Douglas M. Lawson. Alti Publishing, 1998)
Why is it important for all of us to be involved in service?
Our U.S. society is based on the idea that we are all responsible for the well-being of our community, country and world. Even before the founding of our country, the willingness to serve was evident in the hearts of many. Later the Great Depression brought out opportunities for service throughout the nation, and the forming of the Peace Corps in 1960 by President John F. Kennedy further reinforced the eagerness of citizens to get involved in helping others. While the people served certainly benefit from community service, the volunteers who engage in serving others benefit positively in many ways. Michigan 4-H Youth Development continues in that tradition by involving young people in a variety of community service-learning projects and programs.
What youth gain from community service learning
By giving back to their communities, young people can:
- Learn the value of helping others.
- Develop leadership, communication, organizational skills and a sense of empowerment.
- Learn how important the connection is between subject matter and life in the community.
- Learn how to cooperate with one another and work as a team with diverse groups of people including adults, peers and others with different backgrounds and experiences.
- Succeed in an area different from academics, athletics or popularity.
- Build self-esteem from the positive results of their service.
- Develop problem-solving and decision-making skills by applying their knowledge to real-world situations.
- Develop a sense of being responsible for their community and a sense that citizenship requires them to actively participate in their community.
- Receive recognition for their efforts and possibly college scholarships.
- Experience the world of work.
Not only do young people gain by being involved in community service, the clubs and groups that they are in also experience benefits from planning and carrying out service projects.
What clubs gain from community service learning
Carrying out service activities can strengthen a club or group because it:
- Boosts member commitment and involvement by giving members meaningful activities.
- Can involve families and youth in a joint activity.
- Fulfills the "hands to larger service" part of the 4-H pledge.
- Builds unity among members, allowing them to function better as a team.
- Allows members to get to know one another better as they work together on a common goal.
- Helps youth become invested in their club and community.
- Shows the community how youth can be resources and how they can get things done.
D'Ann Rohrer, Extension Educator, email@example.com or 231-845-3361 for more information on Service Learning
For more information on how to get involved as a youth or volunteer, contact your county MSU Extension office or:
4-H Youth Development