What do the president of Tyson Foods, the chairman of Bank of America and the CEO of Ford Motor Co. have in common with Johnny Carson, Reba McEntire and Florence Henderson?
All are 4-H youth development alumni.
Add to that some 36 university presidents, a few presidents of the United States and some well-known sports figures, and you have a picture of the diverse history of 4-H.
More than 100 years old, this premier youth development program has much to offer children from all environments, communities and families. Florida 4-H develops positive and productive youth.
Research indicates that regular participation in extracurricular activities during adolescence can lead to long-term quality-of-life payoffs.
Recent studies show that youth who spend time in positive youth programs such as 4-H are less likely to become involved in high-risk behaviors, and have higher school attendance and grades. In addition, they demonstrate better conflict-management practices and better work habits.
Studies indicate that the more internal assets and life skills young people build, the more likely they are to grow up healthy, confident and responsible. Active participation in 4-H helps develop life skills.
4-H uses many different projects to engage youth in their areas of interest. Statewide, members complete an average of three projects per year. These projects guide youth to acquire new work and family life skills.
In 4-H project learning experiences, youth partner with adults in self-directed learning, set goals, make independent choices and decisions, and gain a sense of mastery and accomplishment from their experiences.
In a summary prepared by the University of Florida, based on 628 youth surveys, more than 80 percent reported acquiring skills related to taking responsibility for their own actions, valuing others' feelings, developing close relationships and keeping friends. Just under 80 percent reported developing skills such as learning to be trustworthy, learning to reach goals, learning to value service to community and learning to make decisions for oneself.
Studies have defined four essential elements of 4-H youth development: belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. Fostered by 4-H professionals, youth participate in projects and activities that address all four elements.
The fellowship of 4-H helps youth know others care about them and gives them a sense of connection. Leadership opportunities throughout their 4-H experiences allow youth to know they can influence people and events through decisionmaking and actions.
Youth mature in self-discipline and responsibility while learning to understand themselves and become independent thinkers.
Youth need to feel and believe they are capable, and they must experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges. This leads to self-confidence and the willingness to try new things.
Finally, youth need to feel that their lives have meaning and purpose. 4-H community service and citizenship activities allow them to connect to their community and to give back often.
The Lerner Positive Youth Development Study, published in 2007, clearly indicates that quality and quantity both matter in community-based youth programs. The more often youth are involved in youth development programs like 4-H, the more they, and their communities, benefit.
Nancy A. Moores is the 4-H agent with the Hernando County Cooperative Extension Service.