4-H Changes Lives? Communities?

My Generation

Study: 4-H has physical, mental and community benefits, and the adults who work with those 4-Hers may be to thank for it.

Published on: March 28, 2011
I've been working on a speech for a group of 4-H volunteers, and in the course of my research I came across a fascinating little study.

Did you know research has actually confirmed that young people in 4-H are three times more likely to contribute to their communities than youth not participating in 4-H? Now this won't come as rocket science to many of us in agriculture - we've long known the benefits of 4-H – but it is kinda nice to see it confirmed by a scientific study.

The research took place at Tufts University and is what they call a longitudinal study. It began in 2001, and young people were measured in waves, comparing those in 4-H to those not in 4-H. All told, they've looked at nearly 7,000 young people across 45 states.

Anyway, among other things, they learned that 4-H'ers are more likely to be physically active (broke a calf to lead lately?). They also do better in school and are more motivated to attend college. Young people in 4-H have better grades, higher levels of academic competence and are more engaged at school. How about that?

And another not-surprising-but-still-fascinating tidbit: "the structured learning, encouragement and adult mentoring that young people receive through 4-H plays a vital role in helping them contribute to their communities."

That's the leaders. The volunteers. The judging coaches and the chauffers and the thousands of people who help judge projects all summer long. If you've ever done anything for 4-H, you've helped contribute to the greater good of your young people and your community. And that's something to be proud of.

I think it's also something to keep in mind as our Extension organizations struggle with budgets and, in some cases, look at cutting key 4-H staff. Consider where we might be without them.