4-H benefits youth, families and the community

Posted 11 December 2013 at 12:00 am


It has often been said that today’s youth are the future of tomorrow. Indeed, young people of our nation will soon become society’s parents, employees and contributing members. With some positive direction we can guide our youth toward creating lives that are fulfilling and productive.

However, today’s youth are faced with a number of influences that have the potential to affect their lives in negative ways. The behaviors of peers and the messages broadcasted through the media often impact the way that a young person decides what a desirable lifestyle is.

Children and teens especially tend to source much of what they believe regarding what is right and wrong from what their friends demonstrate. In addition, the media’s scope of influence on young people is enormous, ranging from promoting an unhealthy body image, to normalizing violence and crime, and encouraging kids to make a life out of chasing fame and excessive wealth. Indeed, impressionable young people are particularly at risk to develop lifestyles that don’t put to use their astounding potential.

Involvement in youth-based organizations has been shown to reduce the likelihood that kids and teens will make poor decisions regarding their health, safety, and general wellness. A 2010 study from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction found that effective afterschool programs can improve classroom behavior, school attendance, academic aspirations, and can reduce the likelihood that a student may drop out.

Additionally, researchers out of the University of Chicago and UCLA found that participation in afterschool programs has been associated with reduced drug use and criminal behavior. Individuals, families, and communities stand to grow in positive ways through participating in and supporting these programs.

Luckily for residents of Orleans County, the area is home to an active and successful 4-H Youth Development program. The program is the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization and provides participants with opportunities for positive personal development in the home, in the classroom, and within society.

4-H produces research-driven programming with proven results for its members in the areas of science, citizenship and healthy living. Within Orleans County, 4-H members gain valuable life skills through fun projects that are challenging yet rewarding.

In an annual program called “Grown in New York,” local 4-H’ers demonstrated their ability to cook a healthy dish that contained locally produced ingredients. In another project, youth members raised turkeys for a holiday-season market auction for members of the community.

Through these projects and multiple others throughout the year, Orleans County youth involved in 4-H have had the opportunity to gain skills and experience essential to positive personal development while giving back to the community as well.

If you are interested in enrolling your 8-18 year old youth in this exemplary program, contact the Orleans County 4-H office at (585) 798-4265, or visit the offices on the local fairgrounds at 12690 NYS Route 31 in Albion. Volunteer opportunities for adults as 4-H leaders also exist if you wish to contribute your time to building confident young leaders.

Candace Coniglio

(The writer is a former intern with Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension and the 4-H program. She is a senior at Brockport State College.)