January 4, 2002
4-H celebrates 100 years by giving the gift of conversation
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The year 2002 marks the centennial of the 4-H program, a milestone being recognized by letting youth sound off on local, state and national issues.
With the theme "The Power of Youth," 4-H has organized "conversations" across the country to give young people the opportunity to discuss youth development in the 21st century.
Local conversations, which started in October, have taken place in almost every Indiana county, culminating in a statewide event Jan. 29 in Indianapolis. A national conversation will be in Washington, D.C., Feb. 28 through March 2.
"4-H convened the meetings, but we're not just talking to 4-H kids," said Carl Broady, 4-H youth Extension specialist at Purdue University. "Extension educators in almost every county invited teen and adult leaders from their communities to sit down and talk about local issues and the role of young people."
Bringing teens and adults together to discuss youth needs has helped bridge the communication gap between young and old, said Penny Lee, Purdue Extension educator in Tipton County.
"We wanted to get kids connected to positive things in the community," she said. "The adults, in turn, have been impressed with some of the ideas of the youth."
Lee compares today's youth to the senior citizens of the 1970s who were instrumental in getting many social services started for the aging.
"During our discussion, the teens said they would like more of a voice in local concerns, including representation on governing boards and in the news media."
The conversations focused on what communities can do over the next three to five years to help local youth. In turn, teen participants were asked to make a pledge of service to their local communities.
As part of the Power of Youth Pledge Campaign, youth commit to volunteer a specified number of hours on community service projects. The value of the volunteer labor represented by the pledges from across the country totals hundreds of millions of dollars, Broady said.
Reports from the many conversation forums will be distributed to local, state and national leaders.
"We hope these conversations lead to action plans to guide youth and communities in the years to come," Broady said.
The 4-H program, administered by the Cooperative Extension Service, provides youth with a variety of activities and opportunities to promote learning and youth development. Young people participate in activities, guided by adult leaders, that challenge them to gain new skills. Youths also provide leadership and direction to the organization, from local clubs to national programs.
With more than 6.8 million youths involved in 4-H programs annually, the organization is one of the most diverse in the country.
"We used to be thought of as an agriculture group, but our programs have grown to meet the needs of suburban and urban youth as well," Broady said.
The Cooperative Extension Service is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, state land-grant universities and local county governments.
Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722; email@example.com
Sources: Carl Broady, (765) 494-8435, firstname.lastname@example.org
Penny Lee, (765) 675 2694, email@example.com
Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/
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Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com