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Iowa State University Extension

4-H is creating more options for youth and their families

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With $150,000 raised by the Iowa 4-H Foundation and another $150,000 in economic stimulus funds, ISU Extension is making an investment in 4-H Youth Development. These funds are helping 4-H weather the state budget cuts this fiscal year, make strategic adjustments in staffing and programs, and create more options for 4-H clubs and other long-term experiences for Iowa youth, said Chuck Morris, 4-H program director.

The additional funding is allowing 4-H to develop online enrollment for clubs and projects, streamline the animal identification process for livestock shows at county fairs and strengthen support for new members and their families, Morris explained.

“We’ll eliminate paperwork for 4-H’ers and their families wherever we can to make 4-H more user friendly,” he said.

Currently one in five Iowa school-age youth participates in ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development programs, learning leadership, citizenship and life skills as they work in partnership with caring adults. 4-H also helps youth learn about contemporary societal issues such as healthy lifestyles, citizenship and science literacy.

“We want to make sure that 4-H’ers have all the skills and opportunities they need to become successful adults. We also want to make it easier and faster for more Iowa youth and their families to begin and continue 4-H experiences,” Morris said. So he and his staff are taking a close look at everything — from the way clubs are organized to determining the best way to select and screen volunteers to meet child protection and safety requirements.

Already counties are organizing new 4-H clubs through schools and afterschool programs and around special interests, such as the Project Runway and Iron Chef clubs in Jones County, a science club in Humboldt County and First Lego League clubs throughout the state.

Staff duties and assignments have shifted to align with the new ISU Extension regions and county-identified needs, Morris added. In the restructured organization, 21 regional 4-H youth development program specialists serve groups of three to seven counties. Each of seven urban 4-H youth development program specialists serves a designated county. County youth coordinators are hired by county extension councils and manage and support the 4-H program at the local level. Ten program specialists on campus provide content support for the program specialists throughout the state.

This article appeared in January 2010 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter