The 4-H Latino Initiative achieves positive youth outcomes and advances practices on culturally relevant programming, contributing to UC ANR's public value of developing an inclusive and equitable society.
Over 39% of Californians identify as Hispanic or Latino. Growth estimates project that Latinos will make up half of all Californians by 2060. In the K-12 public school system, more than 54% of students identify as Latino or Hispanic. Yet, until recently, the youth membership of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) 4-H programs did not represent the state's Latino population.
How UC Delivers
In 2015, UC ANR provided $2 million to fund the UC 4-H Latino Initiative, a three-year effort from 2016 to 2019 to develop, adapt, implement, and evaluate culturally relevant and responsive 4-H youth development programs. Seven counties — Kern, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma — were selected, representing rural, suburban, and urban communities. Each county received funding to hire a bilingual and bicultural 4-H program staff. Additionally, UC ANR hired an assistant state director for diversity and expansion. The goal was to develop, deliver, and assess culturally responsive program models to recruit and retain Latino youth, families and volunteers into 4-H.
Over three years, each county made progress increasing its reach with youth using a combination of program models and delivery modes. Statewide, youth enrollment grew from serving 1.1% of the school-aged population in 2016 to 1.9% at the end of year three (2019). The number of Latino youth enrolled in 4-H grew 104% from the year before the initiative to year three. Specifically, the 2016 program year had 34,040 Latino youth members, which was 40% of total 4-H membership, and the 2019 program year had 69,383 Latino youth members, making up 47% of total 4-H membership.
We generated new knowledge to advance the field of culturally responsive youth development programming. For example, in a study of bicultural program staff, published in the Journal of Youth Development, we reported on the competing demands to build relationships, engage youth, and show results, with lessons to help shape future efforts (Worker et al., 2019)
Newly recruited Latino young people experienced positive outcomes from participating in 4-H programs such as improvements in mindset and social skills. Additionally, we found that the program experience including relationship building and youth engagement, were similar across community clubs and 4-H Latino Initiative programs (Worker, Fábregas Janeiro, & Lewis, 2019). As a result, the 4-H organizational culture shifted to become more accepting and welcoming, particularly with implementing new, culturally responsive programming. Adopted strategies include incorporating positive development of ethnic identity, tailoring to the needs and interests of local and regional Latino youth and families, removing barriers to participation, and increasing cultural competencies among 4-H volunteers. Resources developed by the Latino Initiative are now located on a web page and continue to be accessed by 4-H academics, staff, volunteers, and 4-H professionals across the nation. They include resources for assessing, implementing, and evaluating culturally responsive programs, as well as marketing and communicating about efforts to engage Latino youth.
“I love having 4-H in my school. I decided to help coach a team, even if I don't know much about soccer. It has been so much fun to learn with the kids and play soccer with them." – Elizabeth, 4-H volunteer soccer coach/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>