4-H Volunteer Road Show: Helping youth thrive through leader development

4-H Volunteer Road Show: Helping youth thrive through leader development

Outside the York County Fairgrounds 4-H Building stands a historical marker titled “Nebraska 4-H Clubs Began in York County.” Tuesday evening, 15 4-H volunteer club and project leaders walked past this marker. They gathered, not for a 4-H Club meeting but rather for the Nebraska 4-H Volunteer Road Show.

The evening started with a session titled “The Magic of 4-H.” It introduced volunteers to the “4-H Thriving Model.” It laid the groundwork for the following sessions. Tanya Crawford, Nebraska Extension educator, explained how 4-H helps youth thrive by providing a place for them to belong, matter and explore their personal spark.

Igniting sparks through 4-H projects

To help youth discover their spark, volunteers were introduced to various entry-level projects and bite-sized activities that can lead to fair exhibits.

During the environmental education session, Molly Brandt, Nebraska Extension educator, led volunteers in making molds of animal tracks. Volunteers saw firsthand how this activity could be conducted in a club setting. Brandt also shared ideas for forestry projects, including club projects, community service activities and fair exhibits.

Many young people come to 4-H to explore a spark for animals. The poultry and rabbit projects were showcased as ideal entry-level animal projects. Brandt shared how she found her spark through the 4-H rabbit project. Her passion for rabbits came through as she covered basic care, breeds and fair classes.

“Chickens are great for kids,” Rachelle Staehr, York FFA adviser, said. She explained that bantams and docile breeds, like Cochin, are easy to handle. With a bantam Cochin hen in hand, Staehr gave a poultry showmanship demonstration. She shared tips for preparing, handling and presenting poultry during showmanship.

Many young people find their spark through creativity. Jill Goedeken, Nebraska Extension educator, led volunteers in an activity they can use to teach kids about color schemes. Goedeken described how this activity can be used in visual arts, home environment and consumer management projects.

Fostering belonging through club projects

Club projects bring youth together and foster a sense of belonging. Throughout the evening, Goedeken reminded volunteers of the opportunities for club or group projects. During the final session, volunteers learned how to guide clubs in selecting those projects. They practiced using basic parliamentary procedures in the “Let’s Make Trail Mix” activity.

Strengthening local support networks

The face-to-face and interactive nature of the event fostered an engaging environment. The room was often filled with laughter, conversational chatter, idea sharing, and informal discussions throughout the evening. During the parliamentary procedure activity, the room erupted in laughter when a motion was made to add an entire bag of M&M’s.

The event strengthened relationships between volunteers and Nebraska Extension staff. Some local staff even attended as participants. Volunteers represented nearly every experience level and background. One individual was in their second year of volunteering, and another had 60+ years of experience.

The Nebraska 4-H Volunteer Road Show is a training and development opportunity offered each fall at various locations across the state. To learn more, visit 4h.unl.edu/volunteer-road-show.