The main goal of this research project is to retain more youth in the 4-H community club program nationwide, as well as to recruit more youth to the program annually. This will be achieved through understanding how youth and their families experience the program in both negative and positive ways.
To understand those experiences, and in turn take actionable steps to recruit and retain youth, this research study has several objectives:
- Ascertain the youth experience in the 4-H program to answer the following questions:
- What do youth like about the program?
- What could be changed to enhance their program experience?
- What are the first impressions and early experiences of youth new to the 4-H program?
- Prior to involvement in the program, what expectations and aspirations do youth and adults have, and after experiencing the program, to what extent do those expectations and aspirations match or conflict with their actual experiences?
- What can be done to motivate youth to continue with the program in subsequent years?
- What opportunities (e.g., leadership) are desired or needed to keep long-term youth members engaged and excited about 4-H?
- What cultural and diversity awareness/sensitivity could be implemented to enhance youth experiences?
- Understand the parent/guardian perspective about participating in 4-H in a similar manner to youth, particularly what can be done to ensure that parents continue their child’s 4-H involvement in subsequent years.
- Explore the culture of 4-H (rules, policies, procedures, rituals, language), as perceived by adult volunteers, and how the culture affects perceptions of success, acceptance, image and club structure? In turn, does culture create opportunities and/or barriers for youth in the program?
- Understand trends in enrollment in 4-H. Is the program “attractive” to certain youth (e.g., pre-teen youth) or does re-enrollment increase depending on involvement in a certain number or type of project?
- Learn about the perception of 4-H from youth and their families that have left the program or have never been a part of the program.
- Why did youth leave the program?
- What would have needed to happen to keep them in the program?
- Why have youth not joined 4-H before, and what might encourage them to do so?
- Using multistate data from Objectives 1- 5:
- What are the similarities and differences in youths’ experience of 4-H across the participating states?
- How do the similarities and differences inform 4-H programming for 4-H youth retention within and across states?