In 2006, there were 72 4-H clubs in Mahoning County, none within the city of Youngstown and none had members who were racial / ethnic minorities. Although Mahoning County has a large urban population, the urban youth were rarely targeted for 4-H activities beyond school enrichment programs. A collaboration between Ohio State University Extension and the Youngstown Community Youth Director has created a change.
Three 4-H clubs were formed by youth residing in the south side of Youngstown, where the majority of youth gang activity takes place. These youth met in their schools, in local churches, and at the Juvenile Justice Center to work together to gain positive youth development traits, the aim of the Ohio 4-H program.
In July, 42 youth ages 9 to 14 years, along with ten adult counselors attended a four-day camp at 4-H Camp Whitewood in Ashtabula County. None of these youth had previously attended a camp. They enjoyed themselves immensely and expressed a desire to go again next year. At the camp, the youth experienced several activities for the first time in their lives, including archery, boating, fishing, tie-dying t-shirts, campfires, and swimming in a lake. They also learned cooperation, teamwork, tolerance, and patience as they shared sleeping quarters and restroom / shower facilities.
Older youth in the program, ages 15-17, participated in a college tour in August. Twenty-four youth and seven adult chaperones traveled on the Ohio State University bus to Columbus and Wilberforce to tour the OSU and Central State University campuses. Some of these kids were members of gangs; others had been sent to the Juvenile Justice Center because of other negative behaviors. When asked about the experience, the young people told about things they had seen that they had not known even existed on college campuses, such as the athletic complex at Ohio State. They also expressed surprise at the amount of financial aid available to them, and the number of areas of study offered. This dialogue with the students presented a great opportunity to again emphasize how important it was to stay in school and to stay out of trouble so they could take advantage of possibilities.
Besides these two events, other inner city youth were involved in club meetings, a Mother's Day tea, and a garden competition. All these children are at risk for delinquent behavior, based on reports from the county juvenile judge. Providing them with alternate activities not only gives them something to do during their out-of-school time but also presents them with choices for their future, otherwise unknown to them.
The real strength of the program is in the partnerships forged between OSU Extension and other community groups. Because of funding made possible by the grant, the county 4-H Educator was able to offer programming to supplement efforts being made by the county juvenile judge, the Youngstown mayor, the Volunteer Services Agency, OCCHA (Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana), the Juvenile Justice Center, and several schools and churches. Many individuals involved in these groups were discovering 4-H for the first time. Others were surprised at the opportunities available to young people through today's 4-H. This program provided exposure for Extension programming to a large, previously untargeted, population.
For more information, contact:
4-H Youth Development
Created: 2008-04-11, Updated: 2008-04-28