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Promoting positive youth development: Initial results from 4-H Thrive!

The Issue

Far too many youth currently fail to reach their full potential. For example, one out of five adolescents in California are at risk for depression; national costs for treating youth with mental health issues is estimated to be $12 billion. Strategies are needed to promote attributes in youth that lead to successful adult development and prevent these negative outcomes. To address this issue, the UC ANR 4-H Youth Development Program (YDP) partnered with the Thrive Foundation for Youth to deliver a new program for increasing the number of thriving youth in California who reach their full potential and become successful, contributing members of their communities.

What Has ANR Done?

UC ANR and UC Cooperative Extension personnel developed a curriculum called 4-H Thrive!, which was designed to help youth identify and develop inner sources of motivation, develop learning and growth mindsets, self-reflect on the indicators of thriving, and improve their goal management skills. Research indicates that youth who possess these skills are more likely to thrive and less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

The program, being delivered across California, includes the 4-H Thrive! curriculum and professional development for those implementing the curriculum. Program staff trained 490 volunteer 4-H master trainers, who in turn trained 529 volunteers who lead projects in local 4-H clubs. 4-H Thrive! has been delivered to 3,516 youth in 35 California counties.

Evaluation is needed to determine if the program that includes these skills is effective in promoting successful development and reducing negative outcomes. ANR provided knowledge, staff, and volunteer resources in the development, delivery and evaluation of 4-H Thrive!

The Payoff

4-H youth thrive!

Results show that 4-H Thrive! youth have more positive outcomes than youth not involved in 4-H. Also, based on pre- and post-program measures, the more youth felt that 4-H helped them get better at their "spark," the more they thrived. Other ways youth thrived was through increasing their growth mindset and goal management skills. Thriving youth were also better adjusted: the more youth thrived, the more their stress decreased and their self-esteem increased.

Results show that 4-H Thrive! helps youth develop important skills to help them thrive and direct them on a pathway toward successful adult development.

Findings will be used to establish effective youth development practices and to inform both policy and program implementation.


Supporting Unit: Youth, Families & Communities - 4-H

Kendra Lewis, Academic Coordinator for Evaluation and Research, CA 4-H YDP, kelew@ucdavis.edu

The 4-H Thrive! Evaluation Team