Helping Youth Become Responsible Citizens:
Louisiana’s 4-H citizenship education initiative helps youth form attitudes and behaviors that employers repeatedly report they seek in potential employees. Research indicates that youth who experience high-quality civic learning are more tolerant of others and more willing to listen to differing points of view and take greater responsibility for their actions. Through the initiative, youth receive sustained and systematic citizenship education to help them become more knowledgeable about their government and how it affects them; more interested in politics, the news, current events and government; and more capable of identifying public policies that do or do not serve their interests and the common good.
A. National 4-H Conference
Purpose of the National 4-H Conference
The National 4-H Conference is the Secretary of Agriculture's premier youth development opportunity to engage youth in developing recommendations for the 4-H Youth Development Program. The Conference is the highpoint experience in 4-H Citizenship, providing the opportunity for young people to connect, learn, engage, lead and impact their communities, their nation and their world.
The National 4-H Conference is a working conference in which youth and adults--at the invitation of the Secretary of Agriculture--assist in the development of recommendations to help guide 4-H Youth Development Programs nationally and in their communities. This event brings together youth, volunteer leaders, and state and county Extension staff members from across the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the Canadian Provinces. Louisiana 4-H Club should contact their 4-H agents for applications and additional information.
The National 4-H Conference explores the differences in today’s society and their affect on 4-H goals and activities. The goals of the conference are to:
• engage more urban youth so they better understand the importance of agriculture, conservation, science and technology and their impact on the quality of life in urban communities;
• develop more programs that focus on the unique needs of older youth as they go through high school and plan for future careers;
• create more national opportunities to engage with other 4-H members;
• do a better job of telling the story of 4-H;
• update processes, policies and delivery methods that fit today’s world – so as today’s youth step into the future, 4-H goes with them; and
• continue to invest and allocate funds to develop new project areas and deliver the latest technologies to youth at the local level.
B. Citizenship Louisiana Focus: A Civic Learning Experience held in Baton Rouge
To spark a statewide movement to enhance 4-H citizenship education programs, the 4-H department is partnering with the Electric Cooperatives Youth Tour, National 4-H Conference and the Citizenship Washington Focus Program; Louisiana Commission on Civic Education; Louisiana Center for Law and Civic Education; and the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives to sponsor and encourage participation in a series of statewide and national conferences that demonstrate the critical role civic education plays in fostering civic engagement.
One such program, 4-H Citizenship Louisiana Focus is designed to help youth develop an understanding of the legislative process. Youth learn about interactions within the legislature; about relationships among legislators, party leaders and special interests; and about how citizens participate in the legislative process.
Youth involved in Louisiana's service-learning initiative are becoming better prepared for success in the workforce. Being a good citizen means caring about the good of society and participating actively to make things better. Research reveals that participating in service-learning programs and learning about the importance and value of serving others can be a powerful influence on positive character development and active citizenship.
Patriotism is an important part of good citizenship. Our Operation Military Kids project promotes patriotism by involving youth in accepting the responsibilities of good citizenship, such as helping to create a smooth transition through the deployment process by offering fun and educational experiences to military children -- focusing on guard and reserve -- to help them better understand and cope with military life, family-member deployment and reintegration, as well as the challenges of maintaining family integrity.
C. 4-H Reading to the Heart Program
In addition, through our “Reading to the HEART” youth literacy program, we have found that literature can be a very powerful teaching tool. Sharing selected books with youth is proving to be an important way to help youth learn about and develop the ideals of strong character and good citizenship. The program, funded through the USDA's CYFAR, Sustainable Community Project, incorporates professional development and support for staff members and community partners on research-based reading strategies.
The most important benefit of the 4-H citizenship initiative is that we are helping youth acquire ideals and skills that they can rely on throughout their lives. In doing so, they will have the best chance to lead balanced lives as individuals and as citizens of their communities and of Louisiana.