Program engages young people in positive youth development experiences
By Kayla Johnson
Eight years ago, 11-year-old Cassia Reed was invited by a friend to attend a meeting for 4-H, the youth development education program of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Little did she know but that meeting would drastically change her life. Reed became heavily involved in the program, holding multiple leadership roles and enhancing her civil and citizenship skills by learning about parliamentary procedure.
Her most memorable experience was participating in Capital Days, a 4-H program for youth to learn about governmental procedures while visiting Nevada’s capital. The skills she learned even helped her land an internship with the Ron Paul presidential campaign last December.
"How many youth do you know that are able to go to the Legislature while in session and sit on the floor?" Reed asked. "4-H has definitely given me opportunities that I normally would not have had such as going to different cities in Nevada and visiting cities that most people my age haven’t been to."
According to a longitudinal study by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, Reed’s experience is not unusual for youth who become involved with 4-H. The study found that youth in 4-H are three times more likely to give back to their communities and have higher education achievement. The research also discovered that the structured learning, encouragement and adult mentoring that young people receive in 4-H plays a vital role in helping them achieve future life successes.
Eric Killian, Clark County interim Southern Area director at UNCE, said he agrees the 4-H program has tremendous impact on youth.
"Youth learn how to present themselves and learn skills that will go with them throughout the rest of their life," Killian said. "The program offers many opportunities and helps them develop into young adults and adult citizens in Nevada and across the country."
Reed credits the many programs and projects ranging from astronomy to photography in 4-H for molding her into the young woman that she is today.
"I wouldn’t be anything like I am today without 4-H," Reed said. "I know way more than I normally would and I am a better-rounded person. Being a part of 4-H has helped me develop skills in agriculture, science and the arts. I am now interested in getting a degree in arts and becoming a curator of a gallery because of 4-H. I want to take what I learned from 4-H and apply it to my adult life."
As of October 2012, 4-H in Nevada has reached 46,340 youth through clubs, camps and many enrichment programs. Nationwide, 4-H serves more than 6 million youth by providing purposeful, non-formal education, said Sarah Chvilicek, 4-H program coordinator for Washoe County.
"The program is built around an experiential learning model," Chvilicek said. "The youth complete activities, reflect on what they’ve learned and apply it to their general learning world. They get to engage in fun activities that interest them and keep them active. All of the transferrable life skills that they learn will lead them to become concerned citizens for the future."
All in all, 4-H serves a purpose in youth’s life and teaches skills that will last a lifetime.
"In 4-H we are packing their [youth] toolbox and getting them ready for the future," Chvilicek said."
For more information and learn how to join Nevada’s 4-H program, visit www.unce.unr.edu/4H/.