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4-H Youth Program

Program Contact: Jennifer Leach, 4-H Youth Development Faculty
360-577-3014 ext. 4 •

The 4-H youth program is a partnership program with Washington State University Extension and Cowlitz County. The program is built on a strong foundation of “4-H clubs” being taught and led by adult volunteers who have a willingness and desire to work with youth ranging in ages from 5 years old to 18 years old.

There is no cost to join as a 4-H Leader. The only cost is your time to volunteer as a 4-H club leader. You don’t need to know 4-H or the project as you will learn right along with the youth or stay at least “one step” ahead of them.

If you are interested in having your youth or other youth join 4-H, then please consider starting a 4-H club. There is a $25 State Membership Fee for each youth to join 4-H. Our 4-H year begins on October 1st and ends on September 30th; however, new clubs can start anytime between October and May.

To learn more about being a certified volunteer 4-H club leader, please contact Jennifer Leach, WSU Extension Faculty 4-H Youth Development at 360-577-3014 ext. 4 or by email There is a required application and screening process along with 6 hours of New Leader Training.

4-H teaches life skills that lead youth to become self-directing, positive, contributing members of our society.  WSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

4-H Creates a Positive Future for Washington Youth


By Vicki McCracken, Nancy Deringer and Mike Gaffney
Special to the Spokane Spokesman-Review; November 7, 2021

Washington State University 4-H has a long and impactful history in Washington.

Formed originally to provide high-quality, research-based, positive youth development, 4-H has never strayed from that mission. The number and types of opportunities for engagement and access to positive youth development programming have expanded significantly over the years. That expansion took place to reflect changes in technology and scientific developments, and to provide a greater variety of opportunities for youth, wherever they might live.

4-H is the largest youth development program in the world. Created nationally in 1914, 4-H is delivered through a federally recognized partnership between U.S. land-grant universities, Cooperative Extension, National 4-H Council, states, counties, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The multilevel value of 4-H is well-recognized statewide among the organization’s members, volunteers, leaders, alums and all who’ve had contact with and connection to the program.

In Washington, the WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program delivers a wide array of educational, research-based programs focused on small and large animal care, agriculture, engineering and technology, leadership, public speaking, creative arts, photography, horsemanship, livestock production, shooting sports, music, sewing, robotics and consumer sciences for youth in rural, urban and suburban communities.

4-H is intentionally accessible for all youth. Under our federal sponsor’s auspices, and faithful to our land-grant mission, 4-H is a nondiscriminatory program that is a home for youth from all walks of life wanting to be connected and involved.

We make impacts at the individual and the county levels, because we’re supported by faculty and staff who bring the knowledge base and administrative support of WSU to our program. WSU Extension 4-H uses a large force of dedicated volunteers to bring research-based knowledge to youth and adults.

In each of Washington’s 39 counties and two tribal communities, the local WSU Extension office coordinates 4-H programming along with a spectrum of other activities and programs, which collectively bring as much as a 3-to-1 return on the investment of county funds contributed to support our offices. Other support comes from WSU state funds, from Federal Smith-Lever (USDA) funding, from grants, and from donations from our many alumni and supporters.

4-H’s many positive effects include individual benefits and positive societal impacts as well. As verified by national studies, 4-H youth are twice as likely to participate in STEM activities and make healthier choices and are four times more likely to be involved and give back to their communities. Girls in 4-H are three times as likely to take part in science programs, compared to girls in other out-of-school activities. 4-H participants are more likely to become productive members of society and are less likely to interact with the criminal justice system.

4-H has a remarkable list of successful alumni including more than 80 members of Congress, four first ladies and six astronauts. Four current Washington members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, are 4-H alumni.

4-H members learn how to set goals, manage time, keep records, and run a meeting. They learn about scientific processes to further their understanding and make better decisions on how to use technology, how to care for an animal, and to care for their own minds, bodies, and communities. When a 15-year-old successfully raises and sells a pig, or a 10-year-old experiences a team win in a national robotics competition, they realize that they can succeed.

Since 2018, 4-H members in Central Washington have led digital skills training for adults in their community through the 4-H Tech Changemakers project. Their project boosted intergenerational connection while helping teach valuable digital tools that adults need to pay bills, visit a school portal, or find needed services. Participating teens realize that they can make a difference.

Similarly, 4-H teens in Spokane County and other areas of the state this year helped their peers learn about the opioid crisis in partnership with WSU’s Center for Rural Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery (CROP+TR). Youth interviewed experts and first responders and shared their research with the wider community.

“I’m going to keep doing my part by helping people learn to be more compassionate and give that helping hand,” one participant shared.

We’re proud of Washington State 4-H, and of the sheer volume of positive impact it has on youth and communities across the state. If you are interested in learning more about 4-H, contact your local county Extension office to be put in touch with a program coordinator or county director.

Vicki McCracken is associate dean and director of WSU Extension. Nancy Deringer is director and state program leader for 4-H Positive Youth Development. Mike Gaffney is assistant director of WSU Extension.

Copyright © 2021 Spokesman-Review 11/07/2021.

4-H member holding a rabbit in a garden.