Youth Prepare for Careers through 4-H and Adobe Youth Voices

AMES, Iowa – Through 4-H, Iowa youth can become involved in many unique educational experiences that prepare them to be effective leaders, productive citizens, outstanding communicators and successful learners. A wide spectrum of opportunities span from statewide programs, such as the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, to local summer camps and workshops in every county. One program 4-H offers to young people, Adobe Youth Voices, allows youth to build skills in technology, particularly media.

The Adobe Foundation created Adobe Youth Voices to empower young people to create multimedia stories that highlight an issue they care about and identify solutions in an effort to foster creativity and a passion for making a difference in their local communities. The program is offered in five Iowa communities: Muscatine, Waverly, New Hampton, Spirit Lake and Waterloo. The program uses the Adobe Creative Suite to put digital storytelling in the hands of youth.

Youth in these communities were encouraged to address issues in the communities through the media they developed.  Over the two years the program took place, the youth developed media such as videos, websites and fliers to address topics such as senior health, stereotyping others, human trafficking and more.

“We applied for and began this program in Iowa to help inform youth of the technologies available to them, and to have them use this technology to help change their communities,” said Dan Lane, a 4-H youth program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

As part of the Adobe Youth Voices program, participating youth were invited to Iowa State University to learn about careers and opportunities that are available in these program areas, said Lane.

“We wanted to celebrate the young peoples’ involvement with Adobe Youth Voices, but we also wanted to provide them a link to the Iowa State University campus. Once youth are on campus, they can see themselves learning on campus,” said Lane.

Sixty-three youth visited campus, including one young man, Jordan Downing. His experiences on campus sparked an interest in future education and career options, acording to his mother.

“I was getting worried that Jordan’s hopes and dreams of becoming a professional athlete were not going to be followed up with a ‘plan B,’” said Amber Downing. “After his visit to campus, he was so excited. He shared about the college and all the different fields he found out about and was interested in. He never had an interest in talking about careers before, so this opportunity was a wonderful start for him.”

Iowa 4-H Prepares Youth to Be Ready for Careers

According to a study conducted by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management, futures workers are not prepared to join the workforce. Business leaders reported that skills such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication are essential for success at work. High percentages of surveyed employers indicated that high school graduates entering the workforce are insufficiently prepared in communications, professionalism, problem solving, social responsibility and teamwork – important skills for success in the workforce, said 4-H youth development specialist Keli Tallman.

4-H helps prepare students to enter college and the workforce. All 100 Iowa county extension offices offered communication skill-building events in 2012. More than 1,700 4-H members participated in public speaking and performance events at the 2012 Iowa State Fair.

Currently, more than 4,000 Iowa youth are enrolled in the 4-H citizenship project and all 4-H’ers are expected to volunteer in their communities and contribute time to local service projects each year. In addition, more than 1,000 youth and adults helped improve their communities through the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference and the Pioneer Community Improvement grants during 2012.

“The Iowa 4-H Youth Development program strives to provide youth with pre-collegiate educational experiences to introduce them to academic and career opportunities in healthy living, STEM (science, math, engineering and math) fields, citizenship and leadership, and as shown in Adobe Youth Voices, communications and the arts,” said Cayla Taylor, ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H youth program coordinator.