Positive Youth Development Through Community 4-H Clubs
4-H Critical Elements – An Opportunity to Value and Practice Service to Others
“Among the most powerful means of enriching young lives is to enlist their energies in improving their own communities.” - Great Transitions
Finding one’s self begins with losing one’s self in the service to others. Service is a way for 4-H members to gain exposure to the larger community, indeed the world itself. It is necessary to actively practice and treasure service.
The premise of the fourth critical element - that of the opportunity to value and practice service to others - is that young people should feel free to contribute their skills, ideas and time and that their contributions should be accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated.
4-H volunteers might consider the following questions: In our 4-H club…
- Do all members contribute to the club experience?
- Do members work with adults to practice service to others?
- Are members challenged to contribute to their community?
- Are members recognized for their service contributions?
- Do members know that others value their community service contributions?
Some practices the 4-H club might want to implement if they have not already done so include:
- Look for opportunities to incorporate community service as a part of the project learning activities during the year. Project leaders working along side 4-H members can learn project skills as well as service skills.
- Organize club programs with service as their primary goal. Guest speakers from the community could be invited to attend a club meeting to discuss issues/needs of the community. They could share ideas of how youth could make a difference by addressing these issues/needs. Involve youth in planning these club programs.
- Adopt principles of service learning (service plus reflection). At club meetings or events, take time for members to share their thoughts and feelings regarding the service projects that they conduct. At the end of the project, allow time for members to reflect and evaluate the experience.
- Establish opportunities for members to volunteer their time, interests or skills in order to have a positive influence on others. Use the 4-H Public Adventures curriculum or the Leadership Development through Community Action curriculum as the basis of the group’s identification, planning, implementation, and evaluation of a service project.
- Create opportunities for youth to participate and contribute to the welfare of the community. Challenge each member to learn how to individually and collectively pursue activities that help others. Members will feel good about themselves when they see that they are capable of making a positive difference for someone else.
- Allow youth to teach or serve as “mentors” for younger youth. This may be in the formal role as “junior leader” or in an informal role as a “Big Friend.” Refer to the article at www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/4hfacts/responsibilities.html titled Junior Leader Responsibilities for additional ideas. Big Friend and Welcome to 4-H are publications available at the local Extension Office as well.
- Involve youth in the decision to get involved in service projects that will truly meet community needs. Young people need to learn to identify needs in their own area and look for ways to help others to meet those needs.
- Provide opportunities for youth to develop civic responsibility and learn more about their community through programs and projects that bring them in contact with people from local agencies, government, service organizations and the like. There are some excellent activities in the two curriculums mentioned earlier that help address this point. Involve youth in completing the 4-H club/group report form in the community involvement and global awareness curriculum area. These are due Aug. 15 in the State 4-H Office.
- Incorporate time into the 4-H club program to recognize individual and club service contributions. Invite agencies or organizations that have benefited from the members’ work to come and thank them for their efforts. This will let members know that others value their accomplishments. See that your groups’ activities are highlighted in the local media.