Three youth officers leading a club meeting.

Developing Civically Engaged Leaders


January 19, 2023 -

Key Figures

  • 8,582 Michigan 4-H youth experiences related to citizenship, leadership, civic engagement, community service, communication and arts in 2020-2021
  • 141 Michigan 4-H citizenship, leadership, cultural education and communication programs offered in 2021

Priority Areas

Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development is helping to develop youth as current and future leaders by providing programs that instill young people with the knowledge and skills to become positive agents of change. These programs focus on:

  • Leadership development
  • Civic education and engagement
  • Global citizenship
  • Cultural competency

These experiences and trainings teach youth how to run a meeting, deal with conflict, understand the public policy process, understand other cultures, work collaboratively with people of various leadership styles and personalities, and much more.


As a result of Michigan 4-H leadership and civic engagement activities, thousands of Michigan youth build a commitment to civic service, cultivate the capacity to lead in a multicultural world and develop skills to positively contribute to their communities, country and world. A 10-year longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University found that 4-H youth are:

  • 4 times more likely to make contributions to their communities.
  • 2 times more likely to be civically active.
  • 2 times more likely to make healthier choices

For more information about MSU Extension’s leadership and civic engagement programs and resources, contact or visit us online.

Participant Quote

  • "I've really learned about the power of young people. I always knew that youth had the ability to make changes, but I couldn't really find examples of how that was happening. [This program] has shown me some incredible young people who are making changes in our society that has just been really inspiring. It also showed me that I myself have that capacity."
    • Youth participant in Michigan 4-H leadership and civic engagement programs


Following the success of 4-H Japanese Girls’ Day in 2020, MSU Extension joined with several partners to bring the program back in 2021. In addition to four youth members who brought their own ideas and energy to the youth-adult partnership, Michigan 4-H also collaborated with the States’ 4-H International Exchange Programs, Western Michigan University’s Soga Japan Center and Kentucky 4-H. The committee launched a virtual, four-session program that provided cultural learning experiences around Hinamatsuri, otherwise known as Japanese Girls’ Day.

Nearly 300 youth and more than 180 adults participated in the four, 1-hour segments that led up to the celebration on March 3. Sessions covered Japanese Girls’ Day traditions, the reason it’s celebrated, Hina dolls and a day in the life of someone in Japan. As a result of the program, surveyed attendees reported:

  • 100% agreed the experience helped them to appreciate other cultures and gave them the courage to encourage others to do so as well.
  • 96% gained new knowledge about Japan and its culture.
  • 86% learned to appreciate their own culture through learning about another culture.
  • 78% shared things they learned through this experience with others. 

After reflecting on the experience, one participant stated:

"As individuals, we became a part of everyone we meet, every culture we experience. Every culture we learn about helps us to connect with and understand other people around the world. The more we understand, the better we become at solving common world problems together."


Two Michigan 4-H programs popular with youth, the 4-H Spectacular and 4-H Youth Leadership Institute, joined together to offer “A Spectacular Youth Leadership Institute” in 2021. This statewide leadership training for youth ages 12 to 19 was offered at four sites across the state, as a modification in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each site did the same in-person hands-on activities and connected virtually throughout the day with the other program sites. The agenda included team building, leadership training and a panel discussion with four incredible young leaders.

In total, 63 youth took part across the state. As one young person struggled with a session about goal-setting, a MSU Extension educator took some time to work with him one-on-one. The young man shared, “I’m not a leader, I don’t have any goals I can set.” After talking some more, the educator learned the young man enjoyed sports and thus encouraged him to think about all the leaders on any sports team; all positions and even the managers and coaches provide the team with things they need to be successful. As he then reflected on his own basketball goals, the young man shared, “I am a leader and I do have leadership goals! I just never had anyone help me to see it that way before.”


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