Building connections between adult volunteers and youth

The goal of Michigan 4-H is to develop life skills through hands-on education. The 4-H Guiding Principles help volunteers achieve their goals. This article focuses on 4-H Guiding Principle One: Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.

As a part of Michigan State University Extension, 4-H youth pledge their heads to clearer thinking, their hearts to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service and their health to better living. Volunteers support young people in 4-H programs by helping them develop life skills through hands-on educational activities. The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles drive the programming in 4-H that promotes positive youth development. This article series will explore each Guiding Principle and help all volunteers who work with youth to be more intentional in their efforts. The first 4-H Guiding Principle is “Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.” Please check out the Guiding Principle One video for additional information.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development works with volunteers in four major program delivery models to promote positive youth development: Clubs, planned youth mentoring, after school programs and short-term, special interest programs. Volunteers in club programs can help young people collectively plan and implement community service projects. Youth and adults can work together to set the agenda for their club meetings and develop goals for the year. Older youth can support children in Cloverbud programs to help them learn the importance of being a good role model. Mentors working one-on-one with youth should encourage young people to take an active role in planning their outings. Matches should take advantage of group activities offered by many 4-H mentoring programs and attend 4-H Mentoring Weekend to help them build a community of peers. They can also attend cultural events to increase their cultural competency.

After school program volunteers play valuable roles in engaging and connecting with young people. Volunteers can teach youth in after school programs about career skills and help them apply strategies that will help them succeed at home and at school. Project-based learning in after school programs can help youth build relationships, while also learning material based on educational outcomes. Short-term, special interest programs like 4-H camps and 4-H Exploration Days give youth an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging with their peers and gain valuable life skills at the same time. Youth can showcase their talents, serve as ambassadors or counselors to other youth and assist as teachers in workshops. Adult volunteers in these programs have the opportunity to help young people learn conflict management.

Be sure to check out other articles in this series to learn more about ways that volunteers working with young people can build life skills in the youth they serve!

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