4-H in an Urban/Suburban World
As the 4-H/Youth Development agent, I participate in many different outreach opportunities at festivals, events and schools as a way to promote 4-H throughout Johnson County. While visiting with individuals at these events, I hear a wide variety of answers when I ask, “Are you familiar with 4-H?” These answers range from a simple “yes” or “no”, to “I was a 4-H’er 50 years ago!” Often times I hear something like, “I live in the city, so we don’t have 4-H”.
Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common stereotype. People assume that 4-H is a rural organization that focuses on animals, and isn’t available or applicable to those who live in larger population centers. After hearing this from one woman, I pointed out that Johnson County has 19 community clubs, some of which meet just a few miles from her house in Overland Park. Talk about a surprise for her!
Is 4-H relevant today in the 21st century?
4-H is just as relevant for today’s youth as it was for their parents or grandparents, even in urban/suburban areas. And while it certainly has strong rural and agricultural roots, it has plenty of fun activities and projects that are awesome for any child, whether they live in the country or in the city. In fact, according to National 4-H, more youth from urban/suburban areas participated in 4-H last year than youth in rural areas: 3.4 million youth versus 2.6 million.
Johnson County 4-H still offers the traditional projects related to livestock and agriculture.
But today's 4-H science programs provide 4‑H youth the opportunity to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through fun, hands-on activities and projects. Our SpaceTech program includes rocketry, astronomy, robotics and computers.
Food, nutrition and photography are some of the most popular projects for Johnson County 4-H’ers, which can be done anywhere in the county.
Entomology, geology, environmental science, arts and crafts, clothing and textiles, and more are possible for any 4-H’er, irrespective of where they live.
Preparing kids for their future
Some of the most important skills a 4-H’er learns are decision making, citizenship and leadership, which are just as important for youths in cities as it is for youth in rural areas.
According to National 4-H, 4‑H’s Health Living programs provide youth with a better understanding on how their choices can help themselves and their families. These programs include alcohol, tobacco and drug use prevention, bullying prevention and encouraging good decision-making skills.
A recent survey of Johnson County 4-H’ers revealed that:
- 96% report an increased effort to allow all individuals to have a voice
- 93% are comfortable making their own decisions
- 90% don’t succumb to peer pressure
- 94% volunteer more as a result of 4-H experiences
4-H college scholarships provide opportunities
Many 4-H adult alumni tell how 4-H helped them meet the demands, challenges, and rigor of college life. Organization, discipline and perseverance were just some of the important skills alumni listed as helping them succeed not only in college but later as they pursued careers. 4-H participation can help young people prepare for and succeed in college.
Scholarships for 4-H members help youth who might not have sufficient means to attend college. Through local, state and national levels, certain scholarships are open to students pursuing any field of study, while others are open to students pursuing degrees in agriculture, food and nutrition, ag business, animal science, journalism and STEM related studies.
4-H Youth Development in Johnson County, Kansas
4-H is alive and thriving here in Johnson County in many different ways, engaging kids with all kinds of interests from all kinds of backgrounds.
Yes, while many of our youths are involved in the more traditional aspects of 4-H, there are many projects and activities available for urban and suburban kids. There’s something for everyone in 4-H.
We would love for you and your family to become a member of our 4-H family. If you have questions or would like more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be glad to talk with you about how 4-H can help your child grow and thrive in this dynamic world we live in.
Additional information can be obtained by calling the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension office, click here.