January 2015
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: The Changing Face of Alabama 4-H

  4-H youth get hands-on learning in most programs.

Parents want children and teens involved in activities that build skills and knowledge. Young people want activities that are fun and offer variety. The answer: Alabama 4-H.

Extension professionals across the state are working closely with adult and youth advisory groups to ensure 4-H in every county is an exciting and fun place for young people ages 9-18 to belong and learn.

"We are taking what has been good about 4-H since its founding more than 100 years ago and applying it with new ideas, projects and technologies to develop the next generation of citizen leaders," said Dr. Paul Brown, Alabama Extension associate director.

Brown noted that Alabama 4-H’s Centennial Youth Initiative allows young people to take the lead in developing a 4-H program that suits their interests.

"Including youth in planning encourages increased participation in 4-H, and it will also encourage older youth to continue their 4-H experience," Brown said.

4-Hers from across the state participated in 4-H Day at Auburn University.  

Six counties have recently earned the Centennial Youth Initiative Designation in recognition of their county 4-H team’s efforts to transform and revitalize 4-H.

Mobile, Washington, Baldwin, Escambia, Cherokee and Etowah counties earned the distinction because of their excellence across the 4-H programming spectrum. These areas of excellence are:

- Forming a unified Alabama 4-H team and program,

- Utilizing consistent research-based curriculum resources,

- Diversifying delivery modes tailored to today’s youth,

- Promoting plan-of-work development and teamwork at all levels, and

- Aligning staff and position assignments to support program resources and delivery modes.

This designation will provide a full-time Alabama 4-H Foundation Agent dedicated to growing 4-H programs in each of the six counties. These Alabama 4-H Foundation Agents will be funded by Alabama Extension and the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation.

"Our goal is to help every county earn the Centennial Youth Initiative designation and to have a full-time 4-H agent working in every county," he explained.

Currently, more than 120,000 young people participate in 4-H programs in Alabama. Dr. Molly Gregg, an Alabama 4-H curriculum specialist, called the project opportunities almost boundless.

"There is truly something for everyone in 4-H," she said. "We have projects ranging from rockets and robots to wildlife, public speaking to interior design, and archery to animals."

In addition to a wide variety of projects, Brown said there are many different ways to participate as well.

"We have adopted a variety of club options and delivery modes enabling every young person to access 4-H in our diverse communities," he added.

Ways to Participate in 4-H

- Enrichment programs

- In-school clubs

- Community clubs

- Special interest clubs

- Camping

- Self-directed learning

- Online opportunities

While 4-H is a fun-filled organization, parents can feel confident in 4-H programming and its volunteers.

Brown said 4-H provides opportunities for youth to develop strong leadership skills and fosters independence – two elements parents want in their children’s activities.

"Research has shown that youth in 4-H earn better grades and are more likely to pursue a high school education," he said.

Benefits of 4-H Participation

- Four times more likely to make contributions to their communities (Grades 7-12)

- Two times more likely to be civically active (Grades 8-12)

- Two times more likely to make healthier choices (Grade 7)

 -Two times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time (Grades 10 – 12)

(Information from Tufts University research project, 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development)

Brown emphasized that 4-H provides a safe and welcoming place for youth to learn and belong.

"We have an excellent staff that enables Alabama Extension to reach the state’s diverse youth population," he said. "Our adult volunteers undergo a rigorous screening to assure we maintain a safe environment for all the youth."

To learn more about participating in 4-H, visit online. You can also visit your county Extension office. Find your county office under county government listings in the phonebook or find them online.

Margaret Lawrence is the manager of Communications and Marketing for Alabama Extension.