While the 4-H Club provides a wonderful small group learning environment for the positive development of young people, it is not the only way to become a 4-H member. Independent membership is another option. Independent 4-H members participate in planned learning outside of a club setting. Their work is self-directed with guidance and support of parents and mentors. Self-study, home study, mentoring or shadowing with an “expert,” and whole families learning together are examples of 4-H independent membership.
Independent membership provides youth in grades 4-12 an entry point into the 4-H program that has not been previously available.
Just as the 8 essential elements of positive youth development provide the foundation for a quality 4-H Club experience, they are central to the 4-H independent membership experience as well. To ensure that young people choosing independent membership have a 4-H experience of the highest quality they are asked to sign an agreement indicating their commitment to:
- Identify an adult mentor to guide and support them in their 4-H project work. The individual chosen, other than a parent, must complete the official IA 4-H Child Protection and Safety Screening Process. All mentors must agree to the roles and responsibilities outlined in the 4-H mentor position description and attend training. We encourage the mentor be someone other than a parent or guardian.*
- Develop skills in leadership, citizenship, communications, personal life management and knowledge through project work.
- Complete one or more community service learning project during the year.
- Demonstrate their learning by giving a presentation or demonstration before a group (nursing homes, a 4-H club, church groups, afterschool programs).
- Reflect on their learning by recording goals and submitting to their mentor a year end report using record-keeping skills.
- Share with their designated mentor six or more times throughout the year progress on goals and celebrate accomplishments.
- Abide by all county, state and national 4-H policies and recognize the authority of Extension staff to establish and enforce rules and policies.
- Contribute to the larger 4-H program by participating in county and state fundraising efforts; volunteering to lead or assist with 4-H committees, programs and activities; reading and responding to extension office correspondence; and remaining informed and current on 4-H opportunities, procedures and guidelines.