For many if not most 4-H youth, the culmination of the program year focuses on project evaluation, or what is commonly known as 4-H project judging. Ideally this aspect of 4-H is provided by qualified adults with proficiency in the subject matter as well as a grasp of the fundamentals of youth development. Judges can contribute significantly to the positive growth and development of 4-H members through the exhibit and judging process. Serving as a representative of the 4-H program and of the outside world, project judges are the link between the project, the young person, and a standard of performance. In recent years the supply of such adults has fallen in Area XI, creating the need for a pipeline of new and retrained volunteers through continuous education.
A collaboration of Extension Educators designed and delivered a 4-H judges' clinic for current and prospective adult volunteers. The program covered how project judging impacts youth development followed by breakout sessions in specific 4-H subject matter such as Foods, Cake Decorating, Electric, and posters. 52 volunteers participated from Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells and Whitley counties, with 28 indicating they were new to this type of volunteer service.
At the conclusion of the program, participants were invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire that was converted and tabulated by a Qualtrics survey. 23 responses were submitted, an 82% response rate. A sample of results include:
65% of the participants agreed with the statement "Because of what I learned in the clinic, I feel competent judging the specific standards of my project area."
87% of the participants agreed with the statement "Because of what I learned at the clinic, I am aware of my responsibility as a 4-H project judge."
"Presenters did an excellent job."
"I thought it was very informative."
"Appreciate the hands on experience."
"Very good sessions, I learned a lot."
"Overall experience was very beneficial."
In addition and maybe more importantly, the pool of 52 volunteers enlarges and adds to the diversity of adults volunteering to positively influence youth.