4-H, a significant national organization for youth development and mentoring, is a program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). With the official emblem being a four-leaf clover, the 4 H’s stand for "Head, Heart, Hands and Health." The community of young people are focused on learning citizenship, leadership and life skills. It is offered to children ages 8-18 (possibly younger in some states) and continues to offer opportunity to young adults in the form of active alumni involvement. Youth are reached through camps, school and after-school enrichment programs.
4-H originated in the early 1900s as an American idea with the purpose to make public-school education more connected to rural life through practical hands-on learning. In its founding years the mission was to instruct rural youth in improving farming and homemaking practices. Although generally thought as an agriculturally-focused organization the program has changed with time and evolved to adapt the interests of the present-day youth. Encompassing science, citizenship, healthy living and mentoring, 4-H is has now reached all corners of our nation and globe. From rural-farm communities to urban subdivisions, 4-H has greatly expanded its vision.
Individual 4-H clubs are run by volunteers who are initially given an orientation to the program and are supported by a local county extension service agent. The county extension agent is supported by state and national 4-H personnel. They are responsible for its county’s program along with state and national responsibilities.
4-H is in partnership with over a hundred universities and is generally funded by three tiers of the government beginning with the USDA, state government and the individual counties. The program also gets support from private sources.
There have been numerous studies performed to evaluate the overall success of the program and what positive benefits children and young adults gain from years of 4-H involvement. One such study, which compared 4-H youth to non 4-H members, was published in the Study of Positive Youth Development. Conducted at Tufts University, this decade-long study began in 2002. The results of the study reported 4-H participants had lower drug use, reported better grades, experienced greater educational achievements, were more civically active, contributed to their communities more often and made healthier choices.
Throughout Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and the majority of western states as well as around the nation, 4-H continues to be a thriving organization. In Montana, 4-H claims to be the largest extra-circular youth-devolvement program. With the “learn by doing” concept, instruction on life skills, raising animals, camping, cooking, sewing, public speaking and much more, allows the organization to continue to enhance self-confidence and empowerment in the emerging generation and inspire growth and success in the lives of the youth.
For more information visit: http://www.4-h.org/get-involved/find-4-h-clubs-camps-programs