University of California 4-H Youth Development Program
University of California 4-H Youth Development Program
University of California 4-H Youth Development Program
University of California
University of California 4-H Youth Development Program

Chapter 1: Mission and Direction

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I. Introduction

The delivery of Cooperative Extension (CE or UCCE) programs is a partnership of federal, state and county governments. The Smith-Lever Act, 1914 as amended provides appropriation guidelines and specific functions for extension programs, including youth development work through the 4-H Youth Development Program (YDP). As a land-grant institution, the University of California (UC) administers CE and the 4-H YDP for the benefit of all Californians.

The board of supervisors within each cooperating county is an important partner in CE programs, including the 4-H YDP. In most cases, responsibilities are outlined in an agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the county and UC. Generally, the MOU authorizes UC to operate a CE program within the county and authorizes the county to fund the operation of a CE office, including supplies, maintenance, secretarial or program assistance and support. The county director is the liaison between UC and the county board of supervisors.

II. Mission Statement

“The University of California 4-H Youth Development Program engages youth in reaching their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.”

III. Brand Identity

“4-H Youth Development” is the brand-name identity for ANR youth development efforts. For additional guidance on correct use of UC ANR along with California 4-H branding, please refer to the California 4-H Brand Toolkit.

IV. Guiding Principles

The following principles guide the 4-H YDP:

  1. 4-H YDP staff set the educational standards used in the development of the 4-H YDP.

  2. Programs and activities must be developmentally appropriate for specific age groups and foster interaction between 4-H members and 4-H adult volunteers.

  3. 4-H members and adult volunteers will be active participants in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs.

  4. Programs and activities will provide opportunities for developing and enhancing youth development and educational outcomes and be consistent with 4-H YDP core values.

  5. All participants have the right to be accepted, respected and appreciated by others.

  6. All participants have the right to equal access to information and activities.

  7. Partnerships will be developed to enhance program effectiveness and efficiency and increase access to research information.

  8. Adult volunteers will be recruited, trained, supported and recognized.

  9. 4-H YDP and activities will be evaluated.

V. Program Criteria

The following criteria guide the development of California 4-H YD programs. The 4-H YDP Program Criteria Checklist can be used to determine if local programs meet the California 4-H YDP criteria.

  1. The 4-H YDP is aligned with statewide 4-H program priorities and goals.

  2. The 4-H YDP is consistent with the UC 4-H Youth Development Framework.

  3. The 4-H YDP is focused on addressing significant environmental, economic and social issues affecting California's youth, families and communities.

  4. The 4-H YDP is Developmental Appropriateness.

  5. The 4-H YDP incorporates all three major learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile. Understanding Learning Styles.

  6. The 4-H YDP provides  through inclusive and diverse programming and diverse membership. Inclusive and Diverse Learning Experiences

  7. The 4-H YDP is based on a proven  that creates an educational climate through planned learning by exploring, doing and receiving feedback. Experiential Learning Methods

  8. The 4-H YDP engages youth through. Inquiry Based Learning Methods

  9. The 4-H YDP is consistent with research in youth development, education or other appropriate fields.

  10. The 4-H YDP is a contributor to research and/or the extension of knowledge in youth development.

  11. The 4-H YDP is able to demonstrate, or likely to demonstrate, through research and/or evaluative data, a positive impact on youth served.

  12. The 4-H YDP is connected to, or has the potential to connect to, UC campus-based faculty, programs and/or resources.

  13. The 4-H YDP is accessible and open to diverse audiences. Barriers to participation are assessed and reduced or eliminated.

  14. The 4-H YDP is balanced in terms of assessing, managing and monitoring the risk of potential problems to ensure program safety and achievement of key objectives defined by ANR’s risk management program.

  15. The 4-H YDP is balanced so as to optimize the impact for clientele and the field of youth development. The impact achieved will be weighed against the resources invested at the statewide and local level.

VI. Core Values

  1. The 4-H YDP adheres to the 4-H Vision and Mission. 4-H YDP core values require that programs be:

    1. Responsive to California’s youth and families,
    2. Inclusive and diverse,
    3. Innovative and adaptable,
    4. Accountable for actions and resources,
    5. Collaborative and team focused,
    6. Honest, fair and equitable,
    7. Respectful of the health and well-being of people, animals and the environment, and
    8. Evaluated regularly and adjusted as needed to maintain effectiveness.

  2. Core Values are criteria for designing and implementing educational activities and measuring educational impacts based on the following:

    1. 4-H YDP activities focus on education and meet identified UC ANR Strategic Initiatives and clientele needs.

    2. 4-H YDP adult volunteers are guides to youth learning. They also respect others’ viewpoints and abilities.

    3. 4-H YDP programs respond to a range of individual learning styles, abilities and backgrounds.

    4. 4-H YDP educational activities are inclusive, not exclusive. Educational efforts are available to the public on an equal opportunity basis in accordance with UC and federal affirmative action/diversity policies; and are limited only by UCCE resources.

    5. 4-H YDP staff and adult volunteers emphasize experiential “learn-by-doing” methods.

    6. 4-H YDP staff and adult volunteers teach new skills, validate achievement and encourage sharing of information and learning.

VII. Essential Elements

The Essential Elements of youth development are intended to be used as a guide in implementing and developing positive youth development programs.

Belonging -  to know they are cared about by others.

Mastery - to feel and believe they are capable and successful.

Independence - to know they are able to influence people and events.

Generosity - to practice helping others through their own generosity.

The 4-H YDP promotes positive relationships with caring adults, a safe environment, the opportunity for youth to develop mastery, and the ability to demonstrate their new skills in public service. These are the hallmarks of effective youth development programming. See Project Leaders' Digest (2007) .

Effective youth development programs:

Consider the whole young person, not just a single characteristic or problem.

Depend on family and community development as it occurs in the context of society.

Focus on the positive outcomes we desire for young people, not the negative outcomes we hope to prevent.

VIII. History of 4-H

4-H was formed as the result of dedicated, forward-looking people, working individually and in groups. These innovators were interested in youth education. Although the 4-H YDP was not a program established by just a few individuals, several are highlighted below.

In 1902, A. B. Graham, an Ohio school superintendent, organized a boys’ and girls’ club with a home project based on corn. This became the first 4-H club.

The first 4-H emblem was a three-leaf clover introduced by O.H. Benson some time between 1907 and 1908. The clover was used on placards, posters, badges and canning labels. In 1908, pins with the clover emblem were introduced. The H’s signified Head, Heart and Hands.

Benson cited the need for four H’s rather than three, suggesting that they stand for head, heart, hands and hustle. The present 4-H design was adopted when O. B. Martin, who was directing club work in the South, suggested that the 4-H’s stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health.

Otis Hall, state 4-H leader in Kansas, wrote the original 4-H pledge. When the Executive Committee of the Land Grant College Association asked R. A. Pearson, president of Iowa State College, and Dr. A.C. True of the Federal Extension Service to write a pledge for 4-H, they submitted a pledge written substantially by Hall.

By 1912, UC was helping school districts form youth agricultural clubs in rural areas. In 1914, 84 high school agricultural clubs were active in California. The initial objective of the clubs was not to train youth in skills, but to influence the farm and home practices of their parents. CE staff outlined project work.

With the passage of the Smith-Lever Act by Congress in 1914, all CE work, including boys’ and girls’ clubs, became an official function of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) directed through the land grant college system. The extension of the Smith-Lever Act pertained to the black land grant colleges that were established in 1890, as well as the land grant college system that had been established by the Morrill Act in 1862. The Smith-Lever act was amended and then consolidated in 1953.

Discussions on the floors of both houses of Congress on May 21, 1953, clearly established that CE was to continue conducting 4-H YDP work. The Smith-Lever Act and subsequent amendments state that “Cooperative Agricultural Extension work shall consist of the giving of instruction and practical demonstrations in agriculture and home economics and subjects relating thereto to persons not attending or resident in said colleges in the several communities…”

In 1915, competition arose among 4-H clubs in California. Thirty-seven clubs had at least six boys each. In 1917, some 2,716 participants in 208 high school agricultural clubs were engaged in projects under UC’s direction. Contest winners received prizes, usually a trip to Berkeley or the University Farm in Davis. In the summer of 1914, 142 boys spent three days camping in militia tents at the University Farm in Davis. This was the start of the annual summer 4-H Leadership Conference.

During the 1920’s, agricultural club work grew. More than 5,000 youth were enrolled by mid-decade, and more than 400 volunteers contributed their time to club work. The club summer camps continued at the University Farm, bringing youth together from throughout California.

In 1928, the title “4-H” appeared in California reports of youth work. In the 1930’s more than 10,000 youth in California 4-H clubs learned skills through individual projects, and developed leadership and civic responsibility through community improvement projects. As totalitarianism threatened Europe toward the decade’s end, 4-H leaders placed new emphasis on training for citizenship, the history of democracy, government processes, political parties and voting.

In 1953, 4-H programs were reorganized to include a broader audience. Projects were offered in rural electricity, tractor maintenance, entomology and home economics. Projects were no longer required to show an economic return. 4-H clubs were sometimes used to extend research, as in the case of a 1950’s Butte County project where club members conducted livestock feeding trials using almond hulls, a food-processing by-product that was usually burned as waste. The feeding trials were successful and almond hulls became widely accepted as satisfactory feed for cattle.

During the late 1960’s, the traditional 4-H program received new stimulus. Congress appropriated funds for programs in low-income, urban areas and state funds were allocated for urban youth work. Some counties developed experimental 4-H programs, adopting projects and methods for new groups with special needs. In 1964, there were 37,000 4-H members in 1,000 clubs. By 1969, 4-H had grown to 50,000 members, with 20 percent of the members coming from low-income areas.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, federal legislation focused on equal opportunity for women, the disabled and ethnic minorities. The 4-H program sought to attract minorities with short-term projects, in-school and after-school programs and special urban and migrant outreach efforts. Because some of the traditional 4-H programs and delivery methods were ineffective with inner-city youth, 4-H specialists and advisors expanded the program by seeking grants and private funds for special projects, such as a summer outdoor education project in the San Joaquin Valley.

During the 1980’s, dramatic demographic and social changes occurred in California, spanning the dimensions of race, ethnicity, language and socioeconomics. Many immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Russia and the Caribbean settled in California. Family patterns that included single-parent households and working mothers made an impact on youth needs.

In response to these changes, 4-H fostered new ideas to revitalize existing programs and start new ones. In urban areas, 4-H pioneered programs in low-income housing projects to offer education in drama, arts and crafts, cooking, math and reading. To reach large and heterogeneous populations in urban areas, 4-H collaborated with urban community organizations and became a partner in federally funded programs designed to help children catch up in school, get health care and adapt to their community.

Youth development experts expressed concern about the growing number of “latchkey” children. These are children who are given the key to let themselves into their house after school and are expected to remain alone until an adult comes home. 4-H began working with schools and community organizations to establish before- and after-school programs to help unsupervised youth.

The stage is continuously being set for progress in the 4-H YDP. Long-term changes are occurring in the organization of departments in land grant colleges that focus on youth. Departments that focus on food and nutrition, community development, human development and agricultural economics are being organized into divisions within colleges. This should facilitate communication across fields and levels of science.

In the twenty-first century, changing trends in demographics, economy and resources will continue to challenge Californians. Although resources are scarce, the 4-H YDP is attempting to serve a more diverse audience. Personnel are continually examining and redesigning programs and projects to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.

IX. 4-H Pledge

As a True 4-H Member, I pledge
My head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty
My hands to larger service
My health to better living
For my club, my community, my country, and my world.

4-H Pledge in other languages.

X. The 4-H Motto

“To Make the Best Better.”

Its intent is to inspire young people to continue to learn and grow, to make their best efforts better through participating in educational experiences. The 4-H motto supports the California 4-H YDP mission of engaging youth in reaching their fullest potential.

XI. 4-H Creed

I believe in 4-H Club work for the opportunity it will give me to become a useful citizen.

I believe in the training of my HEAD for the power it will give me to think, plan and to reason.

I believe in the training of my HEART for the nobleness it will give me to be kind, sympathetic and true.

I believe in the training of my HANDS for the ability it will give me to be helpful, skillful, and useful.

I believe in the training of my HEALTH for the strength it will give me to enjoy life, to resist disease, and to work efficiently.

I believe in my country, my state, and my community and in my responsibility for their development.

In all these things I believe, and am willing to dedicate my efforts to their fulfillment.

XII. 4-H Emblem

A. Colors

The official emblem is green with white H's - the 4-H colors. The white symbolizes purity. The green represents nature's most common color and is emblematic of youth, life and growth. The 4-H flag consists of a green, four-leaf, stemmed clover on a white background. The clover has a letter “H” in white or metallic gold on each leaf. The H’s stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health.

B. Emblem

The 4-H emblem symbolizes the aim and desired results of effective learning for each individual.

HEAD - Problem solving: ability to sort out complex problems.

HEART - Emotional development: developing good attitudes toward work and learning; developing acceptance and appreciation of other people.

HANDS - Skills development: ability to do, skill in doing and habit of doing.

HEALTH - Physical development: understanding and appreciating a growing and changing body.

C. Use of 4-H Colors, Symbols and Emblem

  1. The use of 4-H symbols is optional. However, if 4-H symbols are used to publicize events or represent activities as official 4-H functions, their use must conform to certain regulations. See 4-H Name and Emblem - Use Handbook (2019) for more information.

  2. Suspected violations in the use of the 4-H name or emblem should be reported to the county director at the county level. Violations that extend beyond one county or a multi-county partnership should be reported to the Statewide 4-H Director.

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The 4-H name and emblem service marks are protected under 18 U.S.C. 707.
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