• 66°

Kentucky 4-H program focuses on leadership

Why is it important for young people to learn about leadership? How does it apply to life?

Leadership is one of the core areas of focus for the Kentucky 4-H program, and as such, there are a wide variety of activities associated with leadership development in youth, appropriate for youth pre-4-H aged and up. The activities involved with leadership development vary greatly, but are all focused on improving the quality aspects of a young leader through reflection, explanation of leadership principle, and personal experiences.

Events for leadership and youth development range from the local to national level, and cover both specific areas of concern and general leadership skills. Youth who participate in leadership development opportunities are exposed to a variety of opportunities for personal development. Leadership activities help youth:

• Develop confidence in their leadership potential and their own sense of identity.

• Improve their self-esteem.

• Enhance their communication skill in sharing, reflecting and discussion.

• Understand the importance of diversity and improve their ability to relate to others.

• Learn effective decision-making methods and experience problem-solving situations.

• Learn group social skills.

Leadership education builds several important assets in Kentucky youth and provides critical elements of youth development (Search Institute, 2004; Pittman, Irby & Ferber, 2001). The fewer assets young people have, the more likely they are to engage in negative behaviors (Benson, 1997; Eccles & Gootman, 2002). The more assets that are provided to youth, the more likely they are to exhibit positive behaviors. Strong leadership and decision-making skills are essential assets in helping shape a 4-H member into a responsible adult (Jones, n.d.)

Members of 4-H get better grades, show higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in their schools. They are more than twice as likely to plan to attend college. Members are 3.4 times more likely to contribute to communities compared to non-4-H members.

Youth Development for 4-H is part of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. The extension’s mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of Kentucky citizens through non-formal education for the entire family. Extension agents and volunteers take the results of university research and explain it in such a way that different age groups can learn and apply the information to their own lives. Kentucky 4-H believes in providing positive youth development experiences that all youth may experience belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

4-H is a youth organization committed to building outstanding leaders with marketable skills to succeed in today’s global society. It empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. The four H’s represent the idea of Head, Heart, Hands and Health. These are the values members work on through fun and engaging progra1ms.

Head: Managing, thinking;

Heart: Relating, caring;

Hands: Giving, working; and

Health: Being, living.

Members of 4-H, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, race or gender, benefit from their participation in the organization. Positive youth development studies have affirmed that compared to other youth, young people involved in 4-H are:

• Four times more likely to contribute to their communities.

• Two times more likely to be civically active

• Two times more likely to make healthier lifestyle choices.

• Two times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time.

• 4-H girls are two times more likely (10th grade) and nearly three times more likely (12th grade) to take part in science programs compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.

For information about 4-H leadership or other 4-H projects, contact Raymond Cox at the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service at 606-573-4464 or 606-273-0835.

Raymond Cox is the county extension agent for 4-H/youth development. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.