2023 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – 4-H Youth Development
J.S. Kelly, UF/IFAS Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL and V.A. Prevatt, UF/IFAS Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL
Situation: In 2021-2022, the only members in County Council were the five officers, three of which were siblings. Officers visiting clubs to recruit members and adding more recreation did not increase participation. If youth besides officers attended, they only came to one meeting and never returned. By the spring of 2022, we decided to make a major programming change in 2022-2023. Objectives: 1) To create a sustainable teen leadership program that fostered a sense of belonging. 2)Teen Leadership Council members engage with each other outside of regular meetings as friends. Methods: The Teen Leadership Council is a club that youth ages 13-18 must register for, youth cannot drop in. At the summer leadership retreat, a SMART goal, an Action Plan, and 12-month calendar were created. The program shifted from adult-youth partnership to youth-adult partnership. After six months, all planning and execution are led by the youth. Results: Youth have already exceeded their SMART goal of making TLC sustainable by having 65% of members attend two-thirds of the meetings (6 months) by May 2023. It has been six months and the retention rate is 92.8%. At the recent public speaking contest where four members competed and one member was in the audience, the youth sat in a group instead of with their families. They cheered each other on and celebrated success as a group. We were happy to see the unprompted camaraderie. While we were putting everything up from the contest, the secretary was asked what she liked best about TLC. Without hesitation, she replied, “Doing business with friends.” Conclusion: Creating a safe space for teens to engage with their peers in a youth-led program leads to a high retention rate (sense of belonging).