How can we afford to not include youth in important decision making processes of 4-H councils, associations, and committees? This type of activity provides a growth opportunity for youth and strengthens program decisions. By helping young people grow, we accomplish the very purpose for which the 4- H program exists. It is the policy of the Washington State University Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to involve 4-H youth in leadership opportunities whenever possible.
This publication is a guide for youth who serve on 4-H councils, associations, and committees as well as the volunteer and professional adults who work with them. Many decision-making groups operate simultaneously in counties, districts, and state, both formally and informally. These groups shape activities and educational programs. They decide how money will be raised and spent for the good of the program. Many, if not all, of the decisions affect the lives of youth as well as adults. Youth members can provide meaningful input, gain valuable experience, learn decision-making skills, and build working relationships with adults.
For youth to be effective on councils, associations, and committees, adults need to be supportive of the youth in every way possible. A passive attitude from adults may be interpreted by youth as meaning, “It is not important for you to participate.” The participating youth need to know what the expectations of the situation, and they should have had appropriate prior experience in the 4-H program, such as local leadership before state leadership. Youth/ adult partnerships can benefit everyone involved but they need to have the cooperation and support of all parties! Encouragement, open communications, willingness to serve and learn, and compromise are key components to a successful council, association, or committee and every youth or adult who applies to serve should exercise them.
Positive steps must be taken to insure that youth are selected in a fair and open manner, that they receive adequate orientation and ongoing education, and that they are strongly supported by adults. Youth leaders can be a strong resource for planning current and future goals on 4-H councils, associations, and committees.
Benefits to Youth
Benefits to youth from serving on a 4-H council, association, or committee with adults include:
- The positive feeling of acceptance by adults.
- A sense of responsibility from contributing to something important and worthwhile.
- A sense of accomplishment.
- Valuable experience that will help in school, a career, or continued community work.
- Expressing their opinions in the planning of youth activities.
Learning to work with adults is challenging for youth as they approach adulthood. Adults have the advantage of experience and knowledge that youth gain only through continued involvement. Four significant components of identity are important for youth:
- A sense of competence
- A sense of usefulness
- A sense of belonging
- A sense of influence
Involvement on a council, association, or committee could give youth a sense of competence by having someone trust them and give them their own responsibility. The ability to prove themselves and their maturity gives a sense of usefulness and value. Membership on a council, association or committee gives a sense of belonging. Youth will gain a sense of influence from having their voice not only heard, but actually listened to and acted upon.
Benefits to 4-H
The benefits of 4-H participation are not limited to the youth themselves. The whole organization benefits when young people bring the enthusiasm and fresh ideas that come from seeing a situation for the first time. Youth involved effectively in decision making can benefit the organization in these ways:
- Youth will help move the program in a relevant direction.
- Youth are valuable resources.
- The presence of youth will stimulate the group to consider the views of those for whom the program is designed.
- Decision making is enhanced by youth. As the nation’s leading organization serving youth, we need to be the leader in forming the next generation of decision makers.
- Learning experiences enrich youth, forming future leaders.