Illinois youth program offers a place where kids can belong, lead, learn

4-H members in Illinois have joined the 6 million youth across the country in celebrating National 4-H Week Oct. 3-9. Clubs around Illinois celebrate this week by highlighting the remarkable 4‑H youth in their communities and showcasing the incredible experiences that 4‑H offers young people.

Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth program for University of Illinois Extension and the largest out-of-school youth organization in Illinois. The program challenges youth to “learn by doing” with fun, hands-on activities. Kids can learn, practice, and demonstrate new skills while exploring the interests that are important to them. 

In 4-H, youth are brought together in clubs, led by caring adults, who welcome them as a part of the larger 4-H family.

“Our goal is that whatever your interests or talents, that 4-H is a program where you feel welcome and have a sense of belonging,” says Lisa Diaz, assistant dean and director of 4-H. “4-H is a place where all kids can channel their gifts and achieve personal goals in a fun, welcoming setting.”

In 4-H, members learn about topics that interest them through projects. That could be anything from learning how to cook, build a robot, or care for the environment. Members decide what they want to learn and do as they explore their project area. 

“Letting youth guide and decide what they want to explore allows the project to be self-paced and gives children important skills in setting and working toward their goals,” says Diaz. “We make learning fun by letting kids learn by doing with hands-on experiences.”

While the program has its roots in agriculture, 4-H has expanded to cover many more program interests.

“Our agricultural roots remain strong and that will always be a part of our program, but parents and kids alike may not realize there is more to 4-H,” says Diaz. “We continually work to reflect the population demographics, diverse needs, and social conditions throughout the state and will continue to do so.  At the end of the day, we want every kid in Illinois to feel that they have a home in 4-H.”

Illinois 4-H members range in age from 8 to 18. Youth who are 5 to 7 years of age may join 4-H as a Cloverbud member. The cost to join 4-H for the year is $20.

  • Henderson County 309-924-1163
  • Knox County 309-342-5108
  • McDonough County 309-837-3939
  • Warren County 309-734-5161

Community clubs, Cloverbud Clubs and Special Interest Clubs (SPIN) are offered in Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren Counties. Please reach out to learn more about our programs, or to join the 4-H program as a new member.

SOURCE:  Lisa Bouillion Diaz, Assistant Dean and Director, 4-H State Office

ABOUT ILLINOIS 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.