4-H: Making the Best Better

How 4-H Improves the Lives of South Carolina's Youth

4-H Strengthens the Local Community by Providing a Positive Future for Youth The South Carolina Kids Count 2003 report concluded in its summary that “too many children are at risk of not growing up to become self-supporting adults, good family members, and responsible community citizens.” 4-H responds directly to this challenge. 4-H clubs are intentionally designed to include the eight critical elements necessary for positive youth development:

  • Positive relationships with caring adults
  • Opportunities for self-determination
  • An accepting and inclusive environment
  • Opportunities to contribute through community service
  • A safe environment for learning and growing
  • Opportunities to develop and master skills
  • Engagement in learning
  • Opportunities to be an active participant in life

A variety of studies across the country have identified life skills gained through 4-H and the general impact of the program. As an example, a Montana State University study of 5th, 7th, and 9th-grade students in Montana (Astroth & Hayne, 2001) found that 4-H youth are more likely than other kids to report that they:

  • Succeed in school, getting more A’s than other kids
  • Are involved as leaders in their school and the community
  • Are looked up to as role models by other kids
  • Help others in the community

4-H youth reported that they are less likely than other kids to:

  • Shoplift or steal
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Ride in a car with someone who has been drinking
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Damage property for the fun of it
  • Skip school or cut classes without permission

Overall, this research indicated that 4-H youth are busy making contributions to improve the quality of life in their families, neighborhoods, and communities. 4-H does not just attract high-achieving kids from privileged families — nor is 4-H able to achieve the kind of results reported in this research summary by only working with “the best kids.” Rather, 4-H is a powerful, proven program that makes a positive difference for all who participate. South Carolina 4-H uses the same best practices to achieve similar results. Here are the major initiatives the 4-H Youth Development Program is currently undertaking to meet the needs of youth throughout the Palmetto State:

  • Teaching Youth about Science, Agriculture, and the Environment 4-H teaches youth the important knowledge needed to be informed stewards of the environment and successful in a rapidly advancing, technology-driven global economy. 4-H members acquire knowledge and skills through 4-H projects in subject matter such as agriculture, natural resources, and environmental education, as well as science, technology, and engineering.
  • Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Smart Choices 4-H taps into the research-based knowledge of Clemson University and the land grant university system to teach youth to make smart, healthy, and safe choices.
  • Developing Youth to be Responsible Leaders and Citizens Although youth can gain a variety of subject matter knowledge through 4-H projects, its ultimate aim is to teach leadership, civic engagement, and life skills. This includes important workforce preparation and meaningful developmental assets such as communication skills, organizational abilities, wise decision-making skills, independence and self-confidence, as well as respect and caring for others and the community.