The Oregon and Ripley County 4-H clubs recently came together for an "Engaging Youth, Serving Community" leadership seminar funded by a USDA Rural Youth Development grant.
The grants are focused on developing leadership and life skills in youth so they can work in partnership with adults to improve their own lives and the rural communities in which they live.
"Oregon County 4-H has received a grant from the National 4-H Council and the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture for a national demonstration project on youth-adult partnerships, which may continue for the next 2-5 years," said Steve Henness, University of Missouri Extension 4-H Center for Youth Development associate. "In order to keep it going beyond 2010, the group is going to need the support of a broad base of adult leaders and organizations in the county. This includes key leaders joining in a 'community core team' that will develop an action plan for addressing the complex issue the group has chosen to take on."
Six club members from Oregon County and four from Ripley County were joined by two 4-H state staff members, one 4-H state council member and two junior state council members at the 4-H building on the Ripley County Fairgrounds.
The two day seminar focused on youth-adult partnerships, diversity, facilitation, issue discovery, issue framing, action planning and community engagement.
"The importance for me personally is to see youth and adults work together towards a common goal," said Johanna Adams PhD., Community Leadership State Extension Specialist. "Our goal is to find an issue in these rural communities that is important to both youth and adults and developing together a plan or project to make a real difference."
The program addresses many issues facing rural youth and their communities, and works to give them the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors necessary to live productive, contributing and fulfilling lives.
Research has shown that youth in rural communities experience less community interconnection than urban areas, have access to limited programs and social opportunities and have less access to healthcare, services and resources necessary for healthy developments.
The broad goals for the Rural Youth Development program is to:
* provide constructive and encouraging relationships among youth and adults, as well as youth and their peers;
* provide safe and inclusive environments;
* provide an array of youth development opportunities for youth to build competencies in areas such as mastery, independence, generosity and sense of belonging;
* provide access to multiple opportunities for youth to develop assets in the physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional and/or social domains;
* engage youth as partners in their own development and the development of their communities;
* promote positive development so youth will be engaged in their communities and more likely to promote the well-being of other young people;
* build human capital to reverse the "brain drain" caused by capable youth leaving rural communities;
* build community-wide programs such as comprehensive community centers;
* connect the formal classroom to real-life experiences and use the community as a context for learning;
* guide youth to see themselves as active participants in the future;
* and offer opportunities for youth to value and practice service to others.
"Through this University of Missouri Extension 4-H Program, rural youth in the county are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills that they can apply both now and in the future," said Henness. "By partnering with adult leaders to address complex community issues, these Oregon County teens are getting a head start on becoming hometown leaders and entrepreneurs. The program is an investment in one of Missouri's most valuable resources for the future -- our young people."