The University of Arizona represents a unique research and learning community unlike any other in the nation. That community is far from exclusive for the students, faculty and staff of the Tucson campus. In fact, almost 200,000 young people around the state are learning new skills, making friends and developing leadership skills through Arizona 4-H, a program of Arizona Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Morill Act, Alive and Well
As we celebrate Arizona’s centennial throughout 2012, 2013 brings yet another milestone for Wildcats and all Arizonans to celebrate.
With the ratification of the Morrill Act 150 years ago under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, the law of the land now allowed for the creation of land-grant colleges – and laid the groundwork for the birth of the University of Arizona.
"For the first time, higher education would not be limited to the wealthy and political elite. In addition, the U.S. created the foundation for a national system to specifically drive knowledge creation and the extension of this knowledge into the economy," said Shane Burgess, dean and vice provost, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, reflecting on this historic event.
4-H Youth Development Uniquely UA
Today, the University of Arizona 4-H Youth Development Program has nearly 185,000 participants between the ages of 5 and 18, and over 7,000 adult and youth volunteers across the state, with representation in every county and 5 reservations. Nationwide, 4-H has over 6.5 million members, 3,500 staff, 538,000 volunteers and upwards of 60 million alumni.
Members of the program are grabbing the opportunity – early on in their lives – to pursue and develop their own unique interests and career opportunities. Some are raising sheep and rabbits. Some are learning to show horses and raising guide dogs for the blind. But others are building rockets, learning about the sciences, and exploring computers and engineering.
“Through 4-H projects, young people learn critical life skills and workforce preparation skills that will help them become positive, contributing members of society who give back to their communities in numerous ways that strengthen the fabric of our state and nation,” said Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development Program at the University of Arizona.
No matter their pursuits, all of these young people are taking advantage of a little-known opportunity. According to a study 4-H did on positive youth development, youth engaged in 4-H are nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school; nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college; 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors; and 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.
Contributing to a Healthy Future
Lest you think 4-H is only for people from agricultural backgrounds who are headed for careers as farmers or ranchers, think again. Today, 4-H in Arizona has prioritized four areas for focus, all of which will contribute to a healthy future for Arizona: promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education; improving of human health and well-being; strengthening citizenship and leadership; and enhancing youth’s connections with the outdoors.
The stated 4-H mission? “The University of Arizona 4-H Youth Development Program provides quality youth education by building positive relationships and life skills. We develop competent, caring and actively engaged citizens who strengthen Arizona communities.”
Well, at 185,000 strong and 100 years old, it looks like Arizona 4-H is delivering on that mission.