4-H’ers make good adults, study says

What do Faith Hill, Julia Roberts, David Letterman, Temple Grandin, Reba McIntire and Herschel Walker have in common?

Each is an American icon. Each is known to be a consummate professional. And each was in 4-H when growing up.

Over the years, 4-H has provided millions of youths with opportunities to develop their leadership, citizenship and life skills that have helped them become community leaders, successful professionals, astronauts, entertainers, athletes – whatever they dreamed.

Now, findings from a recent study led by Richard M. Lerner, professor at Tufts University, confirm that young people in 4-H Youth Development programs do better in preparing to be productive and contributing adults than their non-4-H peers. Youths involved in 4-H experience high levels of positive youth development and are more likely to contribute to their families and their communities, findings showed.

The study, sponsored by National 4-H Council in Washington, D.C., is the first longitudinal study to measure the characteristics of positive youth development over an eight-year period. It had more than 7,000 participants in 44 states, including Colorado, and measured the effect that personal and social factors have on a young person’s development.

Overall, researchers are finding that involvement in 4-H makes a more significant difference in many areas of positive youth development than other youth-development programs. Colorado 4-H Director Jeff Goodwin said that the 4-H program makes a positive difference in the lives of more than 100,000 Colorado youths each year.

“We have always known that 4-H is good for kids, families and communities,” Goodwin says. “Here is strong evidence to support that fact.”

Participating in high-quality youth development programs such as 4-H plays a critical role in helping young people achieve success.

“The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development confirms what we have always believed to be true; 4-H in the community contributes to a stronger community,” said Donald Floyd Jr., president and CEO of the National 4-H Council. “New information about positive youth development provided by this study will ensure that 4-H continues to support young people’s growth into successful, contributing members of their communities.”

Study findings show that compared with their non-4-H peers, young people in 4-H are:

More likely to achieve better grades, higher levels of academic competence and elevated levels of engagement at school.

Less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drinking, smoking and drug use.

Two times more likely to plan to go to college.

More likely to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology. Girls in 4-H are more than twice as likely to participate in science, engineering and technology programs as their peers.

3.4 times more likely to delay sexual activity by grade 12.

2.3 times more likely to exercise and be physically active.

3.4 times more likely to contribute in their communities.

Information about Colorado 4-H Impact Studies can be found on the Colorado 4-H website, along with more details of the Tufts study, at www.colorado4h.org/research_impact.

felsengh@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6463. Greg Felsen is La Plata County 4-H youth development agent. This story was adapted from a news release by the Colorado State 4-H Office.

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