Traditional 4-H that is evolving to modern urban 4-H

The 4-H organization is changing to provide opportunities to all demographics.

Since its inception more than 100 years ago, 4-H has grown to become the nation’s largest youth development organization. 4-H provides out-of-school experiences, in-school enrichment, clubs and camp opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills and explore ways to give back to their communities. According to Michigan State University Extension, 4-H emphasizes the practical application of knowledge or “learning by doing” to develop skills and acquire a sense of responsibility, initiative and self-worth. Adult volunteers play a significant role in 4-H youth development programs and work closely with Extension employees who support the long-term partnerships between land grant universities and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Many people are familiar with the agricultural aspects of 4-H and are surprised to hear how 4-H programming has evolved over the years to be relevant in rural and urban settings. 

Urban 4-H focuses on the same core principals, but may have different delivery systems to appease diverse audiences. Urban 4-H delivery systems include programming in schools, after school programs, community centers and mentoring programs. County 4-H programs work to partner with local educational and human service organizations to offer various options for populations who may not be familiar with or have access to traditional 4-H.

Mentoring programs are becoming more prevalent for 4-H. In Michigan there is a statewide mentoring team and various mentoring program designs across different county. Urban mentoring program designs include community based, school based, peer mentoring and mentoring in juvenile detention centers. The statewide mentoring team supports all of the different program types.

At this time, community based and school based appear to be the most popular. Community based mentoring programs can accommodate at-risk youth and youth who are just in need of an additional role model. In community based mentoring, the mentor picks up the youth from their home and they participate in activities within the community. Activities range from going to the movies, museums and education lessons at the library. Many school based mentoring programs take place after school. They are in urban settings, but can have more of a typical club design. The after school 4-H mentoring programs are usually a small group and have one mentor to four mentees. These programs may also have an interest focus such as science or technology.

Whether 4-H programming is traditional or urban, the ultimate goal is to provide youth with positive experiences to prepare them for their futures.

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