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Sense of belonging gives young people confidence

4-H is designed to engage youths in learning opportunities that promote positive youth development and create responsible and productive citizens.

One of the ways we accomplish this based on the universal principle: To be emotionally healthy, you need to feel a sense of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. By intentionally including these essential elements in our programs, youths feel nurtured in a safe and inclusive environment, are able to master new skills and abilities, and are empowered to have a positive contribution to their communities.

Belonging is something that is so important to every person and is the core to positive youth development. It gives a sense of connection, value and safety. Youths need to know that they are physically and emotionally safe and secure for before they are able learn, engage and master new skills.

4-H gives youths a sense of belonging through our 4-H clubs where they are an integral part of the club. These clubs become their community and support system. Youths encourage each other, celebrate their wins and give support when things don’t go as planned. 4-Hers are accepted and appreciated by their fellow club members and are guided and cared for by the adult volunteers. This sense of belonging gives our youths the confidence to stretch their wings and try new things, like traveling to state 4-H conferences.

At the end of the month, I will be taking seven youths to the Leadership Development Conference in Denver. This is a statewide 4-H conference where our youths will experience all four of our essential elements: belonging, independence, generosity and mastery.

At the conference, 4-H members will learn from each other and work with caring adults. They will participate in workshops where their voices will be heard and they will be encouraged work together to master leadership and citizenship skills. This event inspires teens to continue their 4-H involvement through belonging to a group of like-minded peers and mentors. During this three-day conference, they will learn independence by navigating the conference, meeting new people and being away from home.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Helping Others in Need,” so there will be a large focus on generosity and caring for others. Youths will learn how to reach out to others and offer support in a healthy and caring way. We will also complete a community service that is designed to teach our youths about the importance of supporting our fellow community members.

This leadership conference is highlighted with a trip to the Capitol building. On this day, 4-H members will get to witness when both the state House and Senate proclaim 4-H Day in Colorado. We will also have an opportunity to tour the Capitol building and (hopefully) meet our local representatives.

These experiences help shape our members to be the best version of themselves. They get to see firsthand how people work together for the betterment of our communities. We believe these experiences will inspire a life-long passion and commitment to service and community-building.

Angela Fountain is the La Plata County 4-H youth development agent. Reach her at angela.fountain@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6460.