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From the director

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Dear YD colleagues,

4-H is committed to contributing to helping youth learn and lead, and we know that school success is a very important outcome for youth. So we invested in conducting a study to see how youth who participate in 4-H do in standardized tests on math and reading, and in school attendance compared to other similar youth, and to understand how parent engagement and duration of 4-H participation affects youth achievement and attendance.

Dale Blyth was the lead investigator of the study, which was conducted in partnership with the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. Pam Larson Nippolt and others on our staff also contributed to the study, along with a group of internal and community advisors over the past two years. Josey Landrieu and I acted as advisors.

The study looked at a matched sample of 20,000 youth using data from the Minnesota Department of Education and Department of Human Services, and at math and reading scores, and attendance over five years for 3rd through 8th graders in 2006.

The results show that Minnesota youth who participate in 4-H did better in math and reading scores, and in attendance than the matched sample of youth who were not in 4-H. Youth who stayed in 4-H longer did better than youth who were in 4-H for shorter periods of time. And 4-H'ers whose families volunteered in 4-H did better than youth whose families did not.

The data show that youth who join 4-H come into the program already performing better in math and reading than other youth, and maintain (but do not increase) that better performance over time. The data do not show why or how the difference occurs. The difference may be the result of a variety of unknown factors that lead to a higher level of learning like parental support, more resources or other factors that come together to create a difference.

A summary of the findings are that:

  • Youth who participate in 4-H had consistently higher attendance, and better math and reading scores than their non-4-H peers.
  • Parent involvement in 4-H was associated with increased math scores, but not increased reading scores or school attendance.
  • 4-H youth with more extensive involvement over time had higher attendance and better math and reading scores.
This is very exciting news! You can access a copy of the Academic Achievement of Youth in 4-H report brief here.

Over the next month, we will develop key messages and tools to help you communicate about the study and findings to your local stakeholders.


Dorothy McCargo Freeman

Associate dean & state 4-H director

YD evaluation tips

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Note: The Youth Development program evaluation team will share tips and resources in YD Update to aid staff in program evaluation efforts. Please send any questions or suggestions for future topics to

4-H Youth Participation Patterns: What can we learn from enrollment data?

In the first decade of the new millennium, Minnesota 4-H invested in and implemented a statewide enrollment system for the first time in the organization's 100-year history. Newly released results from a descriptive longitudinal study paint a valuable picture of the 4-H "career" for youth participants. The findings can be used for program design and improvement efforts as Minnesota 4-H staff and volunteers, and other youth serving organizations, gain a clearer understanding of the importance of reaching new audiences, welcoming new members, and engaging youth in meaningful programmatic experiences.

We learned that the first grade and last grade of participation varied for youth based on their gender, where they lived, and their reported race/ethnicity. We learned that most of the youth participants joined in the early elementary grades and that these "early joiners" were most often male, lived on farms, and were white. Rural, female, and white youth were also likely to have more years in 4-H overall. Given that some groups were most likely to join early or stay longer, the opportunities and benefits that come from duration and longevity in a youth program were more likely for youth in those groups. This provides an impetus to both reach new audiences earlier and work to retain them longer.

The findings show that the largest proportion of youth left after their first year in 4-H, and that this likelihood rose the later youth join. The first year of participation is a critical year for welcoming and retention efforts. Satisfaction surveys show that this is important especially for "first generation" 4-H youth and families who have less knowledge of the program. This study makes the case for the urgency surrounding program improvement efforts that engage new audiences and first time youth and their families in Minnesota 4-H so that all youth can benefit from the differences made through 4-H programs.

Pamela Larson Nippolt

Evaluation and research specialist

WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum is now available on the 4-H Mall. WeConnect was designed for youth-serving organizations that are interested in incorporating cultural education. Youth Development staff are encouraged to use this new curriculum developed by Jennifer Skuza and Jessica Russo to guide their work engaging diverse audiences around the topic of global citizenship.

WeConnect is a program model and curriculum designed to show youth that they are participants of a global society, inspiring a sense of understanding and confidence in relating and connecting to other people. The curriculum includes a coordinated series of experiential and interactive exercises that prepare youth to thrive in culturally diverse settings--whether these settings are part of their school day, home life, social life, or workplace--by giving them the opportunity to learn and use culturally responsive skills and knowledge. These skills are based on an international education approach, which is one specific form of cultural education that guides youth beyond knowing that they are citizens of the globe to an acknowledgement of their responsibilities to each other and the world around them.

The exercises are organized into four phases of building cultural knowledge and skills:

  • Phase 1: Exploring
  • Phase 2: Stretching
  • Phase 3: Challenging
  • Phase 4: Connecting
WeConnect is designed for nonformal educational settings such as afterschool programs or clubs with middle school-aged youth (grades 6-8 and ages 11-14), but can be adapted to suit both younger and older age groups.

To learn more about WeConnect and how you can use it in your work with young people, contact Jennifer A. Skuza,, or Jessica Pierson Russo,

To purchase the WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum, go to:, contact, or call 301-961-2934.

Jennifer Skuza, Assistant dean and Jessica Russo, Extension educator

The Diversity and Inclusion Shared Learning Cohort is excited to share its 7 short films on our culture and diversity research page. These films were part of a digital media campaign created by the cohort and are available for staff and public viewing. Video topics include building partnerships across cultures, culturally responsive youth-adult partnerships, serving youth with disabilities, religious inclusion and working with immigrant youth. Please also stay tuned for written educational pieces that will accompany each of the short films.

You can view the videos here. Feel free to share the link with volunteers, partners, and other stakeholders.

Josey Landrieu

Assistant Extension professor

Ka Joog was recently announced as the recipient of a $20,000 award from the Knight Arts Foundation.

To preserve the art of Somali poetry, Ka Joog will bring a mobile art program to neighborhoods across St. Paul, elevating Somali art forms and creating connections across peoples and communities. The pop-up arts education programs will focus on teaching Somali traditional oral art forms, increasing intercultural understanding, and engaging youth in positive activities that simultaneously connect them with their vibrant cultural heritage. Artists will lead classes that encourage youth to explore poetry, music and theater, and learn to respond critically, thus building bridges for collaboration and exposure for Somali artists.

1-800 # for YD discontinued

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As of November 3, 2014 the Extension Center for Youth Development's 1-800-444-4238 will no longer exist. We will continue to have a general office number of 612-624-2116 to field calls with questions about YD, our staff and work. Calls to and messages left at this number will be answered by YD support staff in Coffey Hall and directed to appropriate staff and county offices.

Sandy Rand

Associate administrator

YD in the news

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  • Pioneer Public Television program about 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair

    Pioneer Public Television produced a 30-minute program about 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair. Watch the show online. Pioneer TV also has a 4-H at the State Fair page with additional smaller segment clips on YouTube.

  • Albany 4-H creates one of the organization's first Rube Goldberg machines

    A new change to the 4-H program has given kids the opportunity to develop their critical thinking and team working skills through the use of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Clubs were encouraged to have their members participate in creating a Rube Goldberg machine this year. The Pelican Peak 4-H Club of Stearns County was one of three Minnesota clubs that participated in the program.

    Read the full article.

  • Rice County's U of M Extension focuses on food, agriculture and 4-H

    The University of Minnesota Extension in Rice County continues to focus on educating the youth and community while adopting new programs.

    Read the full article.

  • Dec. 2 - 3 (9 a.m. - 4 p.m. both days)
  • St. Paul Student Center - Room 110
  • Lunch provided
Staff will practice using the YPQA and increase accuracy in observing and scoring through video observation and scoring. Participants who successfully achieve acceptable levels of reliability become "endorsed assessors" and are able to collect research quality data. This is a must-have class for the statewide quality team and other regional staff who are taking on roles in planning and supporting the use of the YPQA in assessment and planning in their region.

Facilitators: Deborah Moore and Stephanie Love

Register as ECYD staff and without a fee:

Deborah Moore

Youth Work Learning Lab

Quality Matters Online: A self study

Using Technology to Build Capacity in Volunteer Programs
Nov. 12, 2014
Online (Brown bag webinar series)

Youth Engagement Matters
Dec. 9, 2014

Youth Work Matters Online
Introductory week: Jan. 12-18, 2015
Course content: Jan. 19 - Feb. 15, 2015
Live webinars: Dates TBD

Changing Adolescent Healthy Living Behavior through Mentoring
Jan. 14, 2015
Online (Brown bag webinar series)

Dilemmas in Youth Work Online
Feb. 16 - March 20, 2015
Course content: Feb. 23-March 20
Live webinars: TBD

Note new promo code: The staff promo code TXTFREE will replace YDSTAFFDEV. Going forward, please use the TXTFREE promo code when registering for CYD training. For more information about upcoming classes or to register, visit:

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