The 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator conducted survey research of final-year 4-H members in Steuben County to assess their perceived life skill development as a result of their 4-H involvement. A two-page questionnaire was mailed to all final-year 4-H members in Steuben County. Completed questionnaires were collected at the county office, and a second identical survey was mailed to non-respondents. Completed questionnaires were then utilized for data analysis.
Nearly 70% of the respondents report long-term commitment to learning through 4-H by being in 4-H for 10 years, the maximum years of 4-H enrollment attainable. 4-H members were asked to assess how their involvement in 4-H helped build 35 important life skills. The scale for each item ranged from 1 to 5 (no influence to major influence). The results show that participants rate their involvement in 4-H programs as having a major influence in developing such life skills as teamwork, self-motivation, character, self-responsibility, and community service volunteering. Also highly rated were social skills, cooperation, responsible citizenship, contributions to group effort, marketable skills, and decision making,
The Impact of 4-H described by four Steuben County 4-H Members:
• “4-H taught me what community service and unselfish giving to others means. It led me to volunteering on my own and helped me choose a career in nursing due to my volunteer trips to nursing homes with my 4-H club.”
• “4-H has made many contributions in my life, but the greatest contribution is teamwork. I have noticed that since 4-H, I have been able to work with people quickly and efficiently. I am very grateful that I got to spend this time in 4-H, and I thank all those who made it possible.”
• “4-H helped me take the first steps out of my comfort zone.”
• “4-H has been a constant teaching experience for me. I have learned the value of working hard at everything I put my mind to. The reward almost always show the product of the person’s work. Making friendships has been a very important thing I have learned while participating in 4-H because the bond of friendships are nearly unbreakable.”
4-H’ers often gain skills from each of the four H’s—head, heart, hands, and health. The youth in the 2015 study appeared to gain life skills heavily influenced by “hands” and “health” with aspects of working together, generosity, service, and independence. This is telling of the data wherein two-thirds of the respondents held leadership positions in their local 4-H club in which they were able to practice mentorship of younger members and teamwork with fellow officers.