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Expanding 4-H to Engage Latino Youth

The Issue

Sonoma County is experiencing a demographic shift where the Latino population has increased by over 300% in the past 20 years. Nearly 37% of Sonoma County youth between age five and 18 identified as Latino, and yet, the Sonoma 4-H community is comprised of less than 10% Latino youth. 4-H Clubs have a long history of strengthening indicators of youth development, as well as providing education in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM), health, and civics. However, with projections for more diversity in the coming decade, 4-H programs must become culturally responsive and tailored to the needs and experiences of Latino youth.

What Has ANR Done?

Sonoma County Cooperative Extension partnered with two local school districts to develop, implement, and evaluate adapted models of 4-H programs designed to reach Latino children. Programs incorporated culturally-responsive practices including bilingual instruction, relevant curriculum, involvement of local teenage mentors, opportunities for family involvement, and more conducive meeting times and locations.

We chartered four 4-H Clubs, meeting during the afterschool hours at each elementary school, so they were more accessible to children at the school, instead of asking them to travel to another location. Additionally, we offered four weeks of summer day camps to children at these schools. Both programmatic models focused on core 4-H values of positive youth development, leadership development, healthy living, community service, and STEM. Led by local teenagers and parents, children were engaged in learning activities and sports as part of their 4-H experience. In LEGO-based activities, children completed challenges through teamwork and design thinking. In Civics, children learned about city planning, the law making process, and public transportation. Programs also offered fun sports activities like soccer, flag football, and basketball in a non-competitive environment to promote healthy living and sportsmanship.

The Payoff

90% increase in Latino youth engagement in long-term, high quality 4-H programs

Sonoma 4-H increased its reach with Latino audiences over 90%, building each year from initially serving approximately 70 Latino youth to over 135. Evaluation results demonstrated that children felt a sense of belonging and reported high levels on indicators of positive youth development (including competence, confidence, connections, empathy, character, and contribution). Over 85% of children agreed they can handle problems that come up in their lives; 100% agreed it is important for them to do the right thing, and 92% agreed they care about contributing to making the world a better place for everyone.

These two models of 4-H youth programming established their viability to reach and engage Latino youth and families, within 4-H core values, in long-term youth development experiences. A toolkit was developed to help other counties replicate programming.


Supporting Unit: Sonoma County

Diego Mariscal, UC 4-H Outreach Coordinator
Steven Worker, 4-H Youth Development Advisor for Marin, Sonoma, and Napa counties