The essential elements of successful learning experiences in 4-H youth development include belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

Regarding independence: “Youth need to know that they are able to influence people and events through decision-making and action. By exercising independence through 4-H leadership opportunities, youth mature in self-discipline and responsibility, learn to better understand themselves and become independent thinkers.” (Adapted from 4-H Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development, Cathann Kress, 2004)

Much research, and many websites, are dedicated to describing what skills businesses are looking for in employees. Most, of course, want employees who can do the mechanics of the work, but they also want workers who can solve problems, work as a team, communicate effectively (written and orally), can plan and organize, and have the tenacity to follow through. Jackson County 4-H isn’t solving all of the world’s problems but we are working hard to help prepare the leaders of tomorrow who will help solve them.

Jackson County 4-H provides opportunities for youth to practice the essential element of independence while at the same time building important skills for the future. Encouraging independence is a thread that runs through all of our experiential learning in clubs, competitions, activities, service projects and community events.

In 2019, 13 youth took steps toward independence by journeying away from home to attend 4-H summer camp. An additional 13 youth developed their potential through 4-H presentations at the county level, 11 at the district level and two at state competition. Thirty-one teenagers have practiced planning, organizing and decision-making through Youth Leadership Council service projects and event planning.

Sometimes they have learned through failure as they regroup and practice follow-through. Jackson County 4-H participants are currently the ones benefiting from this focus on learning independence but eventually the learning will show up in self-directed, responsible adults who will be leaders in our community, country and world.

If you are interested in learning more about Jackson County 4-H youth development programs, contact Heather Gordon, 4-H Agent, at 586-4009 or heather_gordon@ncsu.edu. An activities calendar is also posted at jackson4-h.blogspot.com.