Engaging Youth, Serving Community

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Engaging Youth, Serving Community: Social Change Lessons from a 4-H Rural Youth Development Program Social change targeted at empowering youth requires youth and adults to work together as equals. Youth-adult partnerships create a platform to amplify youth voices. To succeed, youth adult partnerships must be built on open communication and equal voice. By providing opportunities for youth to develop their voices and build positive relationships with adults, youth adult partnerships help youth see themselves as competent individuals who can contribute to decisions that impact their communities while helping them develop leadership skills and improve their self-esteem. Such partnerships also help adults gain leadership skills and experience a renewed sense of energy and commitment to their work. Organizations benefit because youth bring fresh perspectives to decision-making processes. Communities are rejuvenated through youthful energy, and when fresh perspectives of societal issues provide new solutions. For such initiatives to succeed, public stakeholders must recognize the importance of youth participation. 4-H has developed an initiative that focuses on exactly this issue. 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States, with more than 6 million youth participants; 514,000 volunteers; 3,200 professionals; and over 70 million alumni. 4-H engages youth from elementary through high school in experiential learning activities through research-driven programming. The experiential learning model has five steps: experience and discover; share results; process information; generalize about the experience; and, apply to other areas. In a well-designed experiential learning model, youth are fully engaged in learning processes. Four basic youth needs are met by 4-H: Mastery, Belonging, Generosity, and Independence.


Barbara A. Baker, Donna J. Peterson, JoAnne Leatherman, Michael E. Newman, Sally Miske

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