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Volunteer to help with youth development
michelle beran
Michelle Beran

As we prepared for the fair, I had the opportunity to work with both 4-H and Open Class superintendents to review Youth Program Quality Principles from the Kansas 4-H Club Corner. There are eight critical principles for youth program quality as defined by 4-H. I do believe that these apply to any youth program!

1) Physical and psychological safety – Youth need to feel safe in 4-H programs and be able to interact positively with others. Volunteers for Kansas 4-H go through background checks and have access to trainings to provide an appropriate environment for youth to develop.

2) Appropriate structure – Whether it is a club meeting or leadership camp, 4-H programs must have clear and consistent rules and expectations, with clear boundaries and age-appropriate monitoring.

3) Supportive relationships – All youth need to feel warmth from and closeness to others in 4-H. Youth need to feel others care about and support them. They also need to receive clear guidance and communication from 4-H volunteers and staff. 

4) Opportunities to belong – All youth need to feel included in a meaningful way in 4-H, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or ability. Youth have opportunities to share their culture and heritage with others and to forge a positive identity. For myself, at the end of the day, did I help a youth feel valued and that they have a support system?

5) Positive social norms – Youth should experience clear rules and expectations for participating in 4-H, including the values, morals, and ethical expectations of being a 4-H member. Opportunities bring responsibility and that is a life skill which includes abiding by deadlines and a Code of Conduct for appropriate behavior, especially when you are representing your family, club, county, and state at events.

6) Support for efficacy and mattering – Youth in 4-H should be taken seriously and respected for their ideas and contributions. Youth should be given opportunities to develop responsibility and be challenged to set and achieve new goals. Representing their club at 4-H Council, serving in Junior Leaders, and being selected to a 4-H Ambassador role, and serving as club officers are all great examples of providing opportunities for developing responsibility. Each new 4-H year brings the opportunity to set new project goals for learning. These are all important life skills!

7) Opportunities for skill building – Youth need to develop physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional, and social skills as they grow and develop. 4-H provides opportunities for youth to develop these skills, skills that support a young person into adulthood and the workplace. One of the hallmarks of 4-H is the nearly 40 project areas offered to learn about everything from Arts and Crafts to Woodworking. While youth explore the specific project material, they are also learning communication skills, responsibility, time management, and a sense of belonging.

8) Integration of family, school, and community – Youth in 4-H do best when there is a connection to their 4-H experience with their family, school, and community. This is why 4-H programs begin at the local level, in the community where youth can practice their emerging leadership skills as they grow and develop. As a teacher, do you have a 4-H member in your class? Invite them to share about a project! Are you part of a civic organization that would like to know more about what 4-H members are learning? Reach out to them and ask them to present! Your engagement and support help to enrich their 4-H experience and learning opportunities.

If you want to have an active part in developing the next generation of community leaders, business owners, and work force – consider volunteering with a youth organization! If often means checking your own attitude and agenda at the door but the results are incredible!

Keep learning. Keep showing grace and kindness.

Michelle Beran is the 4-H and Youth Development Agent for the Cottonwood District, Barton County office. For more information on this article or other 4-H Youth and Development related questions email her at or call 620-793-1910.