Richard Bogren | 2/8/2017 5:35:49 PM
The foundation of the 4-H youth development program is built on four essential elements: belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. One of the fastest-growing 4-H program areas in Louisiana and the United States is the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Shooting Sports stands out as an example of a program that develops youth as individuals and as responsible, productive citizens. The program provides an opportunity for young people to develop life skills, self-worth and conservation ethics through interaction with many caring adults. This program, like many others in 4-H, builds on all of the four essential elements.
The initial building block to any youth development principle is belonging. If youth do not feel they belong, the program will not be successful.
Pairing youth with a caring adult is critical to building a sense of belonging. This youth-adult partnership is vital for the success of the program. The structure of 4-H Shooting Sports promotes this concept more than any other 4-H program. A local parish program cannot be initiated until we have several formally trained adults to conduct the program. Level 1 training is conducted by Level 2 instructors in all of the shooting sports disciplines. A program cannot begin until an adult has successfully completed Level 1 training and is certified. This ensures adults have been trained not only in all aspects of safe handling of firearms but also in positive youth development and life skills.
To gauge the success of the 4-H Shooting Sports Program in Louisiana in regard to belonging and independence, a survey of 229 youth was conducted. Youth were instructed to select from one of four categories on a Likert scale survey where a response of 1 was strongly disagree, 2 was disagree, 3 was agree and 4 was strongly agree. The survey consisted of nine statements regarding the 4-H Shooting Sports program and what the youth have learned.
In response to the statement that adults in the Shooting Sports program help them feel safe, 93 percent of the youth agreed or strongly agreed, and 94 percent agreed or strongly agreed they respected the adult in their Shooting Sports program. Ninety-four percent also agreed or strongly agreed that adults in the Shooting Sports program cared about them, and 95 percent agreed or strongly agreed that adults in the Shooting Sports program are important to them.
Regarding independence, 92 percent of the youth agreed or strongly agreed that they look for information to help understand the problem, and 94 percent indicated they consider the risk of a choice before making a decision. Ninety-three percent agreed or strongly agreed they think about all the information they have about different choices, and 95 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they think of past choices when making new decisions.
This survey indicates the 4-H Shooting Sports program overwhelming meets the needs of the two essential elements measured. Youth responding to the survey agreed or strongly agreed to the statements relating to the interaction with a caring adult in the program. It provides evidence the youth-adult partnership is strong, which is critical to meeting the essential element of belonging. Additionally, the statements regarding decision making, choices and researching information measure the essential elements of independence.
Youth also agreed or strongly agreed with all these statements with a strong degree of confidence.
Mark Tassin is the associate vice president for 4-H youth and family development.