Programming, Youth

Recognizing Youth’s Efforts

One of the great things I have the opportunity to observe in my role as a youth development educator is how youth grow and develop from year to year. Youth, just like other living things such as plants need a nourishing, supportive, and protective environment. The 4-H youth development program utilizes the “essential elements” research to ensure that a youth development program is met. This means that each young person needs to:


  • Know they are cared about by others: that they belong
  • Feel and believe they are capable and successful: that they have mastery
  • Know they are able to influence people and events: that they have independence
  • Practice helping others: that they can demonstrate generosity.

From research, it was concluded that there are eight critical elements that must be present for positive and effective experiences and opportunities benefiting youth. These eight elements are known as the eight essential elements and are summarized below:

  1. A positive relationship with a caring adult.
  2. A safe emotional and physical environment
  3. An inclusive environment
  4. Engagement in learning
  5. Opportunity for mastery
  6. Opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future
  7. Opportunity for self-determination
  8. Opportunity to value and practice service for others
Fair may be over, but chores still need to be done. Here, my daughter McKenzie does chores after school.

The 4-H program uses recognition as one strategy to help youth become more capable and competent, thus creating an opportunity for mastery. In fact, recognition is a huge incentive to promote further learning and can inspire young people to continue participating and learning. 4-H has several ways we recognize youth. One of the most visible is during the county fair, which young receive ribbons and perhaps even trophies. This provides immediate feedback for youth based on the quality of their end product. There is so much more to the 4-H program than the county fair which youth benefit. Youth complete essentially a “record book” which documents the progression of skills and activities youth have learned from completing not only their fair projects, but participation in other 4-H activities throughout the year. Youth also have the opportunity to self-reflect on a variety of accomplishments throughout their 4-H year. The Diamond Clover program’s goal is to provide 4-H members a rich and diverse learning experience and is designed for members of all ages.

It is that time of year, that both the Clay and Fillmore County 4-H programs will be highlighting those 4-H youth who have earned various 4-H awards. If you are in Fillmore County, I encourage you to attend the Amazing Race/4-H Recognition event which will start at 2:00 p.m. on October 28th at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds. Any youth, whether in 4-H or not, will compete in teams of four or less to complete some fun and unique tasks. Following the Amazing Race activity, 4-H’ers will be recognized for their achievements around 3:00 p.m. with an ice cream social. More information can be found at

If you are in Clay County, the annual 4-H Achievement Program will be held Friday, November 2, at 7:00pm at the Fairgrounds.  4-Her’s should bring a dessert to share.

For more information on how to get youth involved in America’s largest youth development organization that empowers nearly six million young people across the U.S., you can check out Nebraska 4-H’s website or contact me at

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