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4-H Youth Development: Fostering Civic Engagement

The Issue

How do we help young people understand and effectively participate in the political and social processes and institutions that shape our society? How do we prepare and encourage youth to become engaged, competent civic leaders? In response to the events of September 11, 2001, there is increased national attention to these questions. Researchers, educators and others need to identify effective strategies for engaging diverse youth in their communities and preparing them for active citizenship.

What Has ANR Done?

Various activities in the 4-H Youth Development Program support young people’s engagement in their communities. At the local level, 4-H projects all over the state encourage youth to design and implement community service activities. At the state level, the California Focus Program provides a week-long, intense learning experience in which youth investigate the full meaning of citizenship—including rights and responsibilities, government structures and civic engagement—so that they can impact their communities in positive ways.

California Focus participants return to their communities with “action plans” to address a local need or problem, and they spend the next several months implementing that plan. California youth also participate in the Washington Focus Program and the National 4-H Conference. Both of these programs help young people understand how the federal government affects their lives at the local level, and provide opportunities for them to meet their elected officials.

The Payoff

Youth increase knowledge about the importance of civic engagement

Every year, nearly 200 California youth participate in California Focus, Washington Focus and National 4-H Conference. They return from these programs with increased skills and knowledge about their government and how to make a difference in their communities. Among last year’s California Focus participants, 88% showed an increase in knowledge about their state and its government.

Clientele Testimonial

"4-H has helped me to develop my leadership skills, assume more responsibility, and build more self-confidence. I am learning more each day how important it is to become involved in my community... and learn about the different issues that affect my life." —Youth delegate to California Focus

"[California Focus] is very important to all of society because it helps make youth aware of the responsibility of government and the need to participate in it. Many of the teens came away with a sense that they can do things to help make society a better place." –Adult chaperone at California Focus


Supporting Unit: California 4-H Youth Development Program

California 4-H Youth Development Program
Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California, Davis
One Hopkins Road
Davis, CA 95616-8575